Posts tagged: antibiotic resistant infections

Antibiotic Overuse in Livestock: A Slow Motion Catastrophe

Topping some 29-million pounds per year, antibiotics given to livestock have reached record numbers with no hints of slowing down.  With superbugs and antibiotic resistance on the rise, everywhere, the implications for public health are staggering.  Primary used as a growth enhancing agent in factory farming, antibiotics help to offset the risk of disease among livestock living in cramped and squalid conditions.  While increasing profitability for farmers, this practice also streamlines the creation of resistant strains of bacteria—or superbugs—that ultimately infect human beings and threaten our ability to treat bacterial infections as a whole.  At the current rate of resistance, it’s not impossible to conceive of a future where some infections become untreatable and result in death.

In the agricultural world, most major classes of human antibiotics are well represented—that is everything from penicillins, cephalosporins, macrolides, to aminoglycosides are available for animal use.  These drugs, in their human forms, are used to treat the majority of bacterial illnesses—from strep throat to C. difficile infections.  Considering bacteria’s handy-dandy ability to swap resistance factors, it’s hardly surprising that antibiotics are beginning to lose potency among human patients.  As a 2003 Danish study put it, ‘humans and animals share overlapping reservoirs of resistance [to antibiotics]’.  The same study demonstrated the idea that resistant strains could jump from animals fed antibiotics to humans.  The bacterial strain of choice, an enterococci, which was isolated from human beings was able to demonstrate resistance to one of the strongest, last line antibiotics available to medicine: vancomycin.  Interestingly, after the EU banned the offending feed product, levels of resistance in animals, food, and people began to decrease.  Read more »

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