Risk analysis : an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis

Human health risk assessment of penicillin/aminopenicillin resistance in enterococci due to penicillin use in food animals.

PMID 19490520


Penicillin and ampicillin drugs are approved for use in food animals in the United States to treat, control, and prevent diseases, and penicillin is approved for use to improve growth rates in pigs and poultry. This article considers the possibility that such uses might increase the incidence of ampicillin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (AREF) of animal origin in human infections, leading to increased hospitalization and mortality due to reduced response to ampicillin or penicillin. We assess the risks from continued use of penicillin-based drugs in food animals in the United States, using several assumptions to overcome current scientific uncertainties and data gaps. Multiplying the total at-risk population of intensive care unit (ICU) patients by a series of estimated factors suggests that not more than 0.04 excess mortalities per year (under conservative assumptions) to 0.14 excess mortalities per year (under very conservative assumptions) might be prevented in the whole U.S. population if current use of penicillin drugs in food animals were discontinued and if this successfully reduced the prevalence of AREF infections among ICU patients. These calculations suggest that current penicillin usage in food animals in the United States presents very low (possibly zero) human health risks.

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(+)-6-Aminopenicillanic acid, 96%