Increase in antibiotic-resistance hotspots in livestock in low and middle-income countries

A new study [1] published by Science has found that there has been a large increase in the levels of resistant bacteria occurring in pigs and poultry in low and middle-income countries.

The study reviewed over 900 studies from Africa, Asia and South America and found that from 2000 to 2018, the proportion of antibiotics with resistance in certain bacteria higher than 50% increased from 0.15 to 0.41 in chickens and from 0.13 to 0.34 in pigs, and plateaued between 0.12 and 0.23 in cattle.

The scientists said the rise of antibiotic resistance in livestock had "important consequences for animal health, farmers’ livelihoods, and potentially for human health."

They linked the rise of resistance to the intensification of agriculture that is occurring in many LMICs and said that high-income countries should support a transition to more sustainable animal-farming practices in lower-income countries where resistance is emerging.

Cóilín Nunan, of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said:

"The findings of this study raise serious concerns about global trend towards more meat consumption and greater intensification of livestock farming. The increases in antibiotic resistance are significantly higher in pigs and poultry than in cattle, and the scientists point out that this is consistent with the greater intensification occurring in these species.

There are also far more “hotspots” of high antibiotic resistance found in Asia where livestock farming is often more intensive, than in Africa where meat consumption is generally low. But even in Africa livestock farming is gradually intensifying and the study found emerging hotspots.

Farm antibiotic use remains very poorly regulated in many low and middle-income countries, despite increasing efforts to tackle the problem, and this has resulted in some very high levels of resistance which are a threat to both human and animal health.

Post-Brexit, this could have an impact on the British consumer after the UK leaves the European Customs Union and Single Market. If the government decides to cut tariffs on imported meat, there could be an increase in imports from countries where there are low animal-welfare standards and weak or non-existent regulations on farm antibiotic use."


Notes to Editors

[1] Van Boeckel et al., 2019. Global trends in antimicrobial resistance in animals in low- and middle-income countries, Science,