- Feeding animals and birds with antibiotics
increases the threat of salmonella
- Scientists have issued a warning against
a potentially lethal drug-resistant form of the food poisoning bug salmonella.
- Experts from the Public Health Laboratory
Service (PHLS) say a strain of salmonella, known as Salmonella Typhimurium
DT 104, has become resistant to at least four antibiotics.
- They are worried that the strain, which
first appeared in cattle in the late 1980s and has now spread to pigs,
sheep and poultry, could become more common and more resistant to treatment.
- It first appeared in the UK in 1990 and
already accounts for around 15% of all salmonella cases.
- In the blood
- Experts are particularly worried about
it entering the human bloodstream where it could lead to blood poisoning
with potentially lethal consequences.
- In most cases, salmonella affects the
stomach, causing sickness, diarrhoea and pain, but rarely kills.
- Statistics show that the UK has a low
incidence of blood poisoning through salmonella compared with the USA where
13% of cases get into the bloodstream.
- Experts say this could be because there
is closer monitoring in the UK.
- The E.coli bug was relatively harmless
until the arrival of the 0157 strain which was responsible for the deaths
of 20 people in Scotland.
- Writing in The Lancet, Dr John Threlfall
of the PHLS said statistics for 1994, 1995 and 1996 showed that the incidence
of DT 104 was just below that of the strain of salmonella which most commonly
- His research also found that the strain
was becoming more resistant to antibiotics.
- Statistics for 1997 show it is rapidly
mutating and becoming resistant to more antibiotics, leaving doctors with
less and less choice over which drugs to use against it.
- Those most at risk are the elderly, the
very young and the infirm.
- Dr Threlfall blamed the overuse of antibiotics
in farming for the strain's rise.
- "These drugs are used legitimately
for therapeutic purposes in animals, but at the same time they cause increasing
resistance," he said.
- "This is an example of what can
happen as a result of the use of antibiotics in agriculture."