Experts warn of emerging 'super bacteria'

Updated 2018-01-17 14:51:00

China is the largest producer and user of antibiotics in the world, and the country hardest hit by antibiotic misuse and bacterial resistance.

Problems are particularly acute in animal husbandry, where antibiotics are frequently used as health products to promote growth. Serious consequences are emerging, including an increasing risk of "super bacteria," severe environmental degradation, and a big threat to people's health.

In 2013, 162 kilotons of antibiotics were used in China, of which 52 percent were veterinary and 48 percent for humans. Each year, over 50 kilotons of antibiotics are discharged on land and water. In recent years, the use of antibiotics has further increased, most of which function as feed additives instead of medical treatment. Antibiotic residue has been detected in edible products, dairy products and animal-based biochemical medicines.

"Many farmers add antibiotics to animal feed, expecting them to work as health products and promote growth. Practices like this should be alerted," said Yang Jianwu, a researcher from the Hunan Provincial Bureau of Animal Husbandry and Aquatic Products.

China's supervision and control of antibiotics have achieved notable progress in the past 10 years, while problems like high monitoring costs and a lack of experts still exist.

Expert supervision is severely lacking. China only has 110,000 qualified veterinarians.

Another reason is that the current insurance system for animal cultivation is unsound. "Some farmers need to pay over 60 percent of the premium," said Zhu Lijun, vice manager at Yiyang Branch Company of China Pacific Insurance.

Threat from "super bacteria"

"China now appears to be the first country stricken by the 'super bacteria' with no antibiotics to use," said Li Min, doctor in charge at Beijing Center for Health Food and Cosmetics Control.

Data shows, that as of 2007, more than 300,000 children under the age of 7 became deaf as a result of antibiotic misuse, which accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the deaf children. Rural areas are hardest hit by antibiotic misuse, whether in animal husbandry or medical treatment. Antibiotic misuse will do harm to our liver and kidney and lower our immunity, said Xiong Lei, President of Yun University of TCM.

Strengthening supervision and control

To find substitutes for antibiotics and to lower the use of antibiotics is the future of agricultural development.

The Ministry of Science and Technology has listed "Research on the modernization of veterinary medicine and the technology of green culture" as a "National key research and development plan in the 13th five-year plan." "There will be a satisfying outcome in 3 to 5 years," said Zeng Jianguo, Vice Director at the State Research Center on the Technology of Utilization of Plant Functional Components.

More than 2,000 companies produce antibiotics. The state should soon start legislation and set relevant standards. Long-term monitoring on the concentration of antibiotics in running water and surface water should be carried out. Training for farmers and the whole society is also necessary.

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