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AAP Says Antibiotic Use in Animals is Harmful to Children

Update Date: Nov 16, 2015 09:39 AM EST
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Antibiotic use in animal feed can be harmful to children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the largest pediatricians group within the United States, reported.

According to the report, the use of antibiotics as well as other antimicrobial drugs to treat and prevent illnesses in healthy livestock could be jeopardizing the health of everyone but particularly in children.

"The use of antibiotics in animal feed and/or water that's fed to the animals will cause the bacteria that are in the animals to become resistant to those antibiotics," Dr. Jerome A. Paulson, the lead author, explained.

When the bacteria gain resistance, it can make treatment for these infections extremely difficult in human cases. For children with compromised immune systems due to cancer or other types of diseases, the bacterial infection can become life threatening.

"Antibiotic resistance is becoming a bigger and bigger problem, both in kids and adults, so much so that some infections are becoming difficult, if not impossible to treat," Dr. David Haslam, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the Director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said to CBS News.

Although these superbugs continue to pose a threat, the experts noted that they are still very rare and that parents should not be panicking. The experts estimated that at least two million Americans get infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain each year with more than 23,000 patients dying from it. In 2013, the experts noted that the highest incidence of these types of infections occurred in children under five-years-old.

"Infection with these bacteria is not something parents need to have a high level of anxiety about on a day-to-day basis -- the infections themselves are rare," Dr. Paulson said. "Most healthy kids aren't going to get infected. But if they do, or a child has a problem that impacts their immune system... it's doubly difficult to treat."

The report recommends farms to use antibiotic and antimicrobial drugs only when needed. The experts added doctors should also avoid prescribing antibiotics when they are not necessary. Oftentimes, patients will ask for antibiotics because they think these drugs can treat their infections when they actually do not. Antibiotics do not work for colds and other viral infections.

"Like humans, farm animals should receive appropriate antibiotics for bacterial infections. However, the indiscriminate use of antibiotics without a prescription or the input of a veterinarian puts the health of children at risk," Dr. Paulson stressed reported by HealthDay, via Philly.com.

One more way people can limit their exposure is by buying meats and poultry that were not raised on antibiotics.

The report was published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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