Ionophores are the second most widely used class of antibiotic in agriculture, with over 4 million kilograms sold in the United States in 2016. Because ionophores are not used in humans, it is widely assumed that their agricultural use will not impact human health. Consequently, these drugs have not been subject to the same regulations as medically important antibiotics. Here, I argue that the current evidence base is insufficient to conclude that ionophores do not contribute to human relevant antimicrobial resistance. It is unclear whether ionophore resistance can result in cross-resistance to medically important antibiotics. Moreover, recent evidence suggests that ionophore use may coselect for resistance to vancomycin in some cases. Systematic investigation of the consequences of agricultural ionophore use for human health is therefore imperative.

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Department of Biology

Wong, A. (2019). Unknown Risk on the Farm: Does Agricultural Use of Ionophores Contribute to the Burden of Antimicrobial Resistance?. mSphere, 4(5). doi:10.1128/mSphere.00433-19