FDA approval for new cattle antibiotic will cause controversy

According to reports the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States is about to approve the use of another antibiotic in cattle.

The drug Cefquinome was rejected for such use by the Veterinary Medical Advisory Committee, which advises the FDA, in 2006 but it appears that this latest application might be successful.

Cefquinome is a fourth-generation cephalosporin and belongs to a class of antibiotics used for a range of human diseases including serious gastrointestinal diseases in children and meningitis.

Many experts are concerned that using such drugs in animals encourages new drug-resistant "superbugs" to evolve which will be immune to similar drugs when used in people; they say antibiotics are already being overused.

However by using a procedural technicality the FDA is now being pressurised to approve the drug on the basis of an internal guidance document which details how to evaluate any threat to human health from proposed new animal drugs.

Unless it can be proven to threaten the effectiveness of an antibiotic critical in the treatment of food-borne illnesses, rejecting the drug yet again may be no easy matter.

Even though there is no direct link between giving Cefquinome to cattle and human mortality, experts worry that such drugs drive more resistant genes into the human population, a process which is irreversible.

Cefquinome was developed by Intervet International for the treatment of respiratory disease in cattle, but there are many drugs already available which are effective.

Bovine respiratory disease is a common disease in cattle which becomes a problem in intensive farming situations and when cattle are crowded together for shipment.

Early this year New York Democratic Republican Louise Slaughter, who is a microbiologist called upon the FDA not to approve the drug.

Slaughter says the integrity of the FDA's drug review process has been called into question over the last few years with allegations that the agency has been influenced by industry and politics rather than science.

Slaughter also said the recent outbreaks of E. coli and other food borne illnesses across the nation, is an indication that the advice of scientists must not be ignored.

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