Overuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Stirs Debate

We’ve long been writing about the issue of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">antibiotic overuse and misuse and implications to human populations when livestock is over-treated with the powerful medications. Now, says the WCF Courier, some—including the Obama administration—are describing the trend as hazardous.

Antibiotics are used to treat sick animals, but they are often use preventatively to stave off disease and to increase weight and improve feed efficacy, said the WCF Courier. The practice of giving antibiotics to food animals so that they either gain weight more quickly or gain more weight from what they are eating is a practice the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to see halted, we previously wrote. The WCF Courier now writes, citing health experts, that this over use—generally seen in animal confinement facilities—is causing human antibiotic resistance, mostly due to us eating food originating from overly medicated animals.

Livestock producers disagree, saying that antibiotic use is good for animals and humans and that waiting for animals to fall ill can jeopardize human and animal health, wrote the WCF Courier. As we have long written, overuse and misuse of antibiotics is believed to make germs stronger as the germs learn to fight the effects of the drugs.

Previously, we wrote that FDA Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, MD, called the practice of giving food animals antibiotics on a large scale a public health issue, noting that this practice urges drug-resistant bacteria to propagate and creates difficult-to-treat diseases in humans, wrote WebMD. “We are seeing the emergence of multi-drug-resistant pathogens,” Dr. Sharfstein said at a news conference, quoted WebMD. “FDA believes overall weight of evidence supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production purposes is not appropriate.”

We also previously wrote that a large study found a link between antibiotics used in urinary tract infections and birth defects. Another study found that Acinetobacter—a very resistant bacterium—appears to be thriving in hospitals nationwide, with an excess of a 300-percent increase in cases resistant to Primaxin (generic: Imipenem). Infections are not always cured with the most powerful of antibiotics. Improperly using the disinfectant benazlkonium chloride—found in skin cleansers and face creams, spermicides, and some disinfectant products—could cause some germs to develop antibiotic resistance.

Another study found a stark coincidence between MRSA—methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus—and the antibiotic, clindamycin, said the AP previously; a problem, because MRSA is becoming resistant to the antibiotic. A large number of infections are due to drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, which ends up costing more because of the limited amount of medications that work against drug-resistant infections, said Reuters previously. According to 2005 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures, nearly 19,000 people died in the U.S. from MRSA infections; 94,000 were seriously sickened.

U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter (Democrat-New York) introduced The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act in the House of Representatives in March of 2009, said WCF Courier. The bill is meant to phase out nontherapeutic antibiotic use in livestock without stopping its use on sick animals, explained the WCF Courier, which noted that a similar bill is pending in the Senate. Representative Slaughter explained, in a recent press release, that the “widespread practice of using antibiotics to promote livestock growth and compensate for unsanitary, crowded conditions has led to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and other germs, rendering many of our most powerful drugs ineffective,” quoted the WCF Courier.

According to Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, in her testimony on behalf of the American Medical Association (AMA), antibiotic resistance is a significant issue, generally due to its improper use in the medical and agricultural communities, said the WCF Courier. “It is critical we manage the problem of resistance collaboratively across all health care professions and settings and consider all possible areas for intervention,” she said during the hearing, quoted the WCF Courier, which added that the AMA supports the legislation.

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