Thursday, June 04, 2009

Who's hogging our antibiotics?

According to the new ad campaign from the Pew Charitable Trusts,
Here are the facts:

Up to 70 percent of U.S. antibiotics go to farm animals that aren't sick, to offset overcrowding and poor sanitation. This practice promotes the development of deadly strains of drug-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans.

Consumers are exposed to resistant bacteria through the handling and consumption of contaminated meat, through produce that has been exposed to resistant bacteria in soil and water, or even through direct contact with the bacteria in the environment.

Antibiotic-resistant infections cost the U.S. health care system at least $4 to $5 billion per year. One reason is the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms, which promotes the development of drug-resistant diseases.

Each year 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths occur due to people eating food contaminated by dangerous pathogens and bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli, which are often antibiotic resistant.

Food-borne bacteria are more dangerous in their antibiotic-resistant forms, because they are harder to treat and may require multiple antibiotic treatments, longer hospital stays and other interventions before finally being eliminated.
Noticed on the Beyond Green blog.


Anonymous said...

I'm missing something here. If farmers were using the antibiotics to prevent infections caused by overcrowding and poor sanitation but the bacteria causing the infections are becoming resistant to these antibiotics and there must be a lot more of these bacteria on the farm than in the food, wouldn't the antibiotics stop working on the farm as well and, since antibiotics are expensive, wouldn't the farmers stop using them because they don't work anymore? This doesn't seem logical.

Parke Wilde said...

As I understand it, antibiotic resistance is a matter of degree. When antibiotics are overused, resistant microbes are selected and have greater probability of survival, so their share of total microbes in their category increases. Antibiotic resistance hasn't yet progressed to the point that the treatments are useless in farm production -- just somewhat less effective. The real question is if we want to spend these antibiotics on non-therapeutic factory farm production, or act now, even before they are completely useless, to save them for legitimate therapeutic veterinary use and human use.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that by far the biggest risk to continued antibiotic efficacy is the development of antibiotic resistance in LDC's that then transfers to the US via global travel.

Chemists show how waste-water contamination affects ecosystem
Nature 457, 640-641 (2009)

World's Highest Drug Pollution Levels Found In Indian Stream

India's Poorest Villages Face the Worst Pharmaceutical Environmental Contamination Ever Detected

"It seems researchers have recently analyzed waste water in Patancheru, India and were shocked to find enough of a single ant-biotic (Ciproflaxin) being spewed into one stream each day, to treat a city of 90,000 residents."

"If you take a bath there, then you have all the antibiotics you need for treatment," . . . "If you just swallow a few gasps of water, you're treated for everything. The question is for how long?"