Humans arming superbugs by wasting antibiotics on healthy animals

Nicholas Kristof is raising the alarm at our unilateral disarmament against lethal superbugs. By feeding massive quantities of antibacterials to healthy animals, we’re helping already deadly bacteria evolve resistance to our entire arsenal of antibiotics. People are already losing their lives to bugs resistant to all available medicines:

Seventy percent of all antibiotics in the United States go to healthy livestock, according to a careful study by the Union of Concerned Scientists — and that’s one reason we’re seeing the rise of pathogens that defy antibiotics…

Five out of 90 samples of retail pork in Louisiana tested positive for MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant staph infection — according to a peer-reviewed study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology last year. And a recent study of retail meats in the Washington, D.C., area found MRSA in one pork sample…

MRSA already kills more than 18,000 Americans annually, more than AIDS does…

Research by Peter Davies of the University of Minnesota suggests that 25 percent to 39 percent of American hogs carry MRSA…

Unlike Europe and even South Korea, the United States still bows to agribusiness interests by permitting the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed. That’s unconscionable.

The peer-reviewed Medical Clinics of North America concluded last year that antibiotics in livestock feed were “a major component” in the rise in antibiotic resistance. The article said that more antibiotics were fed to animals in North Carolina alone than were administered to the nation’s entire human population.

“We don’t give antibiotics to healthy humans,” said Robert Martin, who led a Pew Commission on industrial farming that examined antibiotic use. “So why give them to healthy animals just so we can keep them in crowded and unsanitary conditions?”

Posted by James on Sunday, March 15, 2009