5 Non-Medical Uses of Antibiotics

We have established previously that antibiotics are used outside of human medicine, such as within the livestock industry, there are however a wider range of industries that employ antibiotics in some way or another. Here are 5 non-human medical uses of antibiotics.

  1. Bee keeping – Bacteria love to infect bee hives due to the high amounts of sugars they can use for energy. As a result apiarists (bee keepers) are lacing their beehives with antibiotics to keep the bacteria out.
  2. Food Preservation – From dairy products to canned food, antibiotics will be present to keep the bacteria out.
  3. Alcohol production – Alcohol is created by using yeasts to convert corn starches into ethanol. Certain bacteria (such as lactobacilli) love to eat up the starches producing lactic acid, instead of the desired ethanol. To prevent this alcohol producers will often lace their corn starch with antibiotics. After the alcohol has been produced, the remains of the corn is then fed to livestock introducing even more antibiotics into the livestock industry than before.
  4. Water treatment and fish farming – Similar to their use in the livestock industry, as mentioned earlier, antibiotics can be used to prevent bacterial build-up in the water supply. This helps the fish farming industry as their fish can live longer and grow bigger without dying due to bacterial infections. This prophylactic usage of antibiotics is required in aquaculture due to the often unsanitary and crowded conditions of fish farms.
  5. Veterinary medicine – OK, slightly cheating here as this is a ‘medical’ use but just not for us humans. Animals can also be prescribed medicines for illnesses or as a preventative measure after surgery. For large groups of animals, such as a group of family dogs to a herd of cows, antibiotics are often prescribed to all animals in the pack collectively often in the food or water. This method has the downside of being incredibly inaccurate as it is near impossible to track which animal received which dosage, depending on how much they ate or drank. Some animals in the herd may receive a insignificant amount and not be able to kill all bacteria present; this once again can lead to resistant bacteria surviving.

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