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93% of physicians are concerned about the massive overuse of antibiotics in agriculture

Antibiotic resistance

(NaturalNews) Ninety-three percent of all physicians surveyed are concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture, according to a recent survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The report is available here[PDF].

Researchers surveyed 500 internal medicine and family practice physicians about their thoughts on and experiences with antibiotic-resistant diseases. The report was released as part of the Prescription For Change project, a collaborative effort that includes Consumers Union (the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Health Care Without Harm, United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG), Natural Resources Defense Council, National Physicians Alliance and Healthy Food Action.

Some of the groups involved planned media events to coincide with the report's release, urging supermarkets and other large institutions to help end the use of antibiotics on healthy livestock.

"This poll underscores how important it is to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics," said Jean Halloran, director of the Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. "We're calling on supermarket chains -- which have huge leverage with meat producers -- to help end the overuse of antibiotics in livestock."

Major public health problem

Antibiotic-resistant infections are of growing concern to health experts worldwide. It is widely accepted that overuse of antibiotics is the major cause driving the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria and is responsible for their proliferation in recent years. This can be caused by the use of antibiotics not just in humans but also in livestock; factory farms in the United States regularly dose healthy animals with antibiotics in order to make them grow faster.

Antibiotic-resistant infections now kill 23,000 per year in the United States.

The survey results were consistent with the perception that drug-resistant bacteria are a growing health problem. Eighty-five percent of doctors reported that they had treated someone with a confirmed or suspected antibiotic-resistant infection in the past year. Of those, 35 percent said they had a patient die or suffer serious complications from a drug-resistant infection. Among doctors working in both hospital and outpatient settings, nearly 50 percent had a patient die or suffer serious complications.

A whopping 97 percent of doctors said they were concerned that drug-resistant infections are a growing problem, and 80 percent said they worked with a practice, hospital or medical group that was actively trying to minimize overprescription of antibiotics.

FDA action unlikely

According to USPIRG spokesperson Maggie Oliver, efforts to combat routine antibiotic use in Wisconsin farms have been well received by local small farmers.

"What we've seen for the most part is overwhelming support for this," she said. "Wisconsin is a huge agricultural state, but so many small farmers that I've spoken with are completely with us on this issue and agree that antibiotics should be saved for cases where they're really needed."

But wide-scale change is most likely to come from federal action, Oliver said.

"We're thinking any way to stop the overuse, really, but that would probably be most effective coming from the federal level, so we're really calling on the Obama administration here to take the action and require the FDA to stop giving antibiotics to animals that aren't sick," she said.

Unfortunately, the FDA has been less than an ally to those working to phase out the practice of routine antibiotic use in livestock. Earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) exposed evidence that the FDA has allowed 18 animal antibiotics to stay on the market even knowing that they posed "high risk" of contributing to drug-resistant infections in humans.

"The FDA's failure to act on its own findings about the 30 reviewed antibiotic feed additives is part of a larger pattern of delay and inaction in tackling livestock drug use that goes back four decades," said NRDC attorney and study co-author Avinash Kar.

Sources for this article include:






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