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Antibiotics

Animal antibiotics are causing drug-resistant, killer infections

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 by: Ethan Huff
Tags: antibiotics, infections, health news

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(NewsTarget) The proliferation of drug-resistant "superbugs" has been steadily increasing due to the widespread use of antibiotic drugs. Particularly in pigs, chickens, and cows, excessive antibiotic use by farmers has led to killer infections that do not respond to antibiotic treatment. Over 65,000 people die every year from such infections, leading many researchers to believe that the antibiotic-induced plague has finally arrived.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), all agree that the overuse of antibiotics is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The World Health Organization (WHO) also concurs that public health is at stake because of increasing antibiotic resistance.

Many farm animals today are given low, steady doses of antibiotics like penicillin which, over time, encourage bacteria to mutate and become resistant to antibiotics. Factory farm conditions are often so filthy that farmers administer the drugs just to keep the animals alive. Many administer them to healthy animals in order to cause them to grow faster. Either way, super-bacteria eventually develop and become so powerful that no drug is able to stop them.

The resurgence of diseases like tuberculosis, staphylococcus aureus (staph), and malaria is being linked to antibiotic drugs. Newer and much deadlier forms of these diseases have emerged that are increasingly being passed from animals to humans.

Roughly 70 percent of the 35 million pounds of antibiotics that were purchased in the U.S. in 2008 were given to livestock animals used to feed humans. Each year, antibiotic use in animals increases about eight percent, probably due to the fact that feeding costs for young pigs drop about 30 percent when antibiotics are given.

Drug-resistant bacteria grow and fester on animals, only to be contracted by farmers whose scratches, cuts, and other injuries leave them prone to deadly infection. Drug-resistant bacteria eventually end up in the meat at the grocery store where it gets passed on to consumers.

When farmers first began giving their animals fluoroquinolones, a group of synthetic antibiotics that includes ciprofloxacin, those drugs gradually became ineffective at treating deadly human infections. Just a few years after the practice began, the drugs became effective only 20 percent of the time at treating the new deadly infections that had emerged. Scientists later discovered that the bacteria had made its way to humans via pork products where it originated.

Unless something is done to limit antibiotic use, deadly strains of super-infection will continue to increase. All efforts to curb antibiotic use in animals have been defeated by pharmaceutical companies and farm organizations that say the animals need the drugs to stay healthy.

Sources:

Pressure rises to stop antibiotics in agriculture - San Francisco Chronicle

Antibiotic resistance - Wikipedia

Attack of the Superbugs: Antibiotic Resistance - The Science Creative Quarterly

About the author

Ethan Huff is a freelance writer and health enthusiast who loves exploring the vast world of natural foods and health, digging deep to get to the truth. He runs an online health publication of his own at http://wholesomeherald.blogspot.com.

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