Saturday, January 07, 2012

"We Are Staring At A Massive Public Health Threat In The Rise Of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs"

On Wednesday, the FDA said that one class of antibiotic, the cephalosporins, should be limited in use in cattle, pigs, chickens, and turkeys:

FDA To Protect Important Class Of Antimicrobial Drugs For Treating Human Illness, FDA Press Release, 4 January 2012

Overuse of cephalosporins in farm animals has caused these drugs to become ineffective for treating infection in humans. Bacteria have become resistant to them.

Bacteria become resistant more easily in places where there are a lot of them packed together, like factory farms. The few bacteria that survive initial exposure to a drug, probably genetically, can transfer that resistance to their neighbors. Then, as Dan Klotz writes:
"Even if the same drug is later given at a proper dose, the bacteria has already acquired a resistance and will survive."
- Do we Really Need To Use Human Medicine On Farm Animals?, National Geographic, 6 January 2012
I read the FDA's press release and thought it was limp. Then I read:
"The F.D.A. initially proposed cephalosporin restrictions in 2008 but withdrew the rule before it could take effect because of opposition from veterinarians, farmers and drug companies. The rule announced Wednesday is less strict than that one, since it still allows veterinarians to use the drugs to treat sick animals in some ways the F.D.A. has not specifically approved."
"Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from New York and a microbiologist, said the F.D.A. had been too slow and too timid. “We are staring at a massive public health threat in the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs,” she said. “We need to start acting with the swiftness and decisiveness this problem deserves.” "
- Citing Drug Resistance, U.S. Restricts More Antibiotics For Livestock, New York Times, 4 January 2012
Maybe it's not as bad as Ms. Slaughter claims:
"Dr. Gatz Riddell, executive vice president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, a veterinarian group, said the dangers of agricultural uses of antibiotics had been greatly exaggerated."
Limiting these drugs will harm factory farmers and drug companies. Seems you'll have to have an alternative at-the-ready before you ban them. But what's that alternative?


Dr. Mel said...

Poor pigs.

Laurie Endicott Thomas said...

And deadly viruses, too!

Gladys L. said...

They are Threat but it is very helpful to our lives. They just pigs but they have a big impact to our economy.