Monday, December 17, 2007

Superbugs and Farming


A recent issue of JAMA addressed the issue of antibiotic resistance and the effect of farm practices on creating resistant "superbugs". This topic has been reported on for decades but more and more scientific evidence is emerging that cannot be refuted. Now researchers have found, in two distinct studies of humans, that bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics on poultry farms and that these resistant bacteria are colonizing humans. The studies showed that the mutated strains of bacteria were identical in the animals and the humans who ingested the food.

Farmers have been feeding antibiotics to pigs, chickens and cattle for the past 50 years. Seventy percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to food animals because they grow up 5% faster and use less feed if they are given antibiotics. This is not done to treat disease.

Bacteria are very adept at evolving genes that allow them to live, despite our amazing array of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance evolves over time through natural selection and mutation and when antibiotics are overused, resistant superbugs emerge.

One half of staph aureus are resistant to our common antibiotics...the result is MRSA ...methacillin resistant staph aureus.

What is the answer? First recognition that this is a health issue that affects everyone. Antibiotic use for farm animal growth should be banned worldwide. (Some countries have already done this). We should start with the U.S. and forbid imports from countries that use antibiotics for growth. Factory farming must be humane and animal healthy. Overcrowding, over breeding, filth and hormone/antibiotic laced grain is obscene and dangerous. It is clear if you watch the attached video that factory farming must change.


Anonymous said...

That video is so disturbing. We like to think of animal grazing on the farm. To see these conditions is makes me angry and sad. No wonder they need to pump antibiotics into them. Yes, Dr. Brayer, it should be outlawed!

Raymond Bouchayer said...

It is such a sad video. Not only do we abuse animals , but for profit we endanger the health of the consumer .
Man is the most cruel and dangerous animal in this planet

Jonathan said...

For an excellent further look at the problem of antibiotics in animal feed and more, see Michael Pollan's article Our Decrepit Food Factories in the 12/16/07 issue of The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Toni Brayer MD said...

To Jonathan: Thanks for the link. When I write a post on the same topic as my hero Michael Pollan (without realizing it), I am in good company indeed.

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