Farmers misusing antibiotics in cows despite extreme threat to humans

Reuters news agency has completed an investigation showing that an increasing number of farmers are misuing ceftiofur, one of the most potent and often used antibiotics resulting an a 323% increase in use from 2008-2013. The use of antibiotics in meat and other animal-based food products rose 16% by volume from 2009 to 2012, according to the report. The increase came amid mounting concerns over the development of so-called “superbugs,” antibiotic resistant organisms that may be caused by over-exposure to antibiotics.

According Reuters , farmers are administering more than recommended by the FDA, and using it more and more to treat sickly cows. Top scientists warn that this is a direct threat to human health and that the government should intervene.

Ceftiofur is one of the top selling drug lines of Zoetis, the world’s largest animal health company. It belongs to a class of drugs called cephalosporins; considered critically important in human medicine. Ceftriaxone is part of the same class as antibiotics used to treat pneumonia, meningitis and salmonella.The overuse of one type causes the effectiveness of others in the same class to wane as the organisms adapt to it. Ceftiofur, more than any other antibiotic, sharply increases the amount of antibiotic resistant bacteria in an animal, researchers say. The drugs kill off weaker bacteria, allowing the stronger bacteria to survive and multiply.

In 2012, the FDA stated that ceftiofur poses a “high public health risk.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) records and revealed traces of the drug were found at illegal levels in slaughtered animals more frequently than with any other drug. It accounted for one-fourth of all violations logged by the USDA in 2013.

The drug is Zoetis’ top selling line, offering more than $300 million in sales each year since 2011.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers