Antibiotics are chemicals that kill or prevent the growth of bacteria. There are two types of antibiotics, broad spectrum and narrow spectrum and they are classed depending on how specific they are and the variety of bacteria they are effective against. Antibiotics have two main uses, fighting infection and agricultural uses. Antibiotics have been used for many years, in the control of illnesses since the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming over 50 years ago1. In addition to their medicinal use, they are also used in farming - both agriculture and livestock farming. For example, by September 1999, 68% of US livestock had received antibiotics at some point2. Antibiotics work by entering the bacteria and interfering with their production of new bacterial cells.
Antibiotics are used in farming as they increase food production by killing the bacteria that stunt growth in the animal or plant. This is useful, especially in the less developed countries as farmers will in turn, earn more money by farming.
This is obviously a great benefit and the use of antibiotics in this way seems to have no problems and so the use should continue. Food-producing animals are also given antibiotics for therapeutic and disease prevention reasons which also, increases the income from the farming.4
Antibiotics are mainly used for medical reasons and are used to treat illnesses caused by bacteria. The common diseases which are treated by antibiotics are infections of the lung, sinuses, middle ear and urinary tract. Antibiotics can also be used to help prevent infection before it takes place. For example, before surgery patients may be given antibiotics to guard against the possibility of getting an infection due to the surgery.5 It has also recently been found that antibiotic treatment can prevent heart problems. Researchers in London say that there is more...