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Keywords:

  • Antibiotic resistance;
  • Campylobacter;
  • macrolide

Campylobacteriosis is an important food-borne illness with more than a million U.S. cases annually. Antibiotic treatment is usually not required. However, erythromycin, a macrolide antibiotic, is recommended for the treatment of severe cases. Therefore, it is considered a critically important antibiotic and given special attention as to the risk that food animal use will lead to resistant infections and compromised human treatment. To assess this risk, we used a retrospective approach; estimating the number of campylobacteriosis cases caused by specific meat consumption utilizing the preventable fraction. We then determined the number of cases with macrolide resistance Campylobacter spp. based on a linear model relating the resistance fraction to on-farm macrolide use. In this article, we considered the uncertainties in the parameter estimates, utilized a more elaborate model of resistance development and separated C. coli and C. jejuni. There are no published data for the probability of compromised treatment outcome due to macrolide resistance. Therefore, our estimates of compromised treatment outcome were based on data for fluoroquinolone-resistant infections. The conservative results show the human health risks are extremely low. For example, the predicted risk of suboptimal human treatment of infection with C. coli from swine is only 1 in 82 million; with a 95% chance it could be as high as 1 in 49 million. Risks from C. jejuni in poultry or beef are even less. Reduced antibiotic use can adversely impact animal health. These low human risks should be weighed against the alternative risks.