Livestock Industry Growing Superbugs?

Winnipeg Free Press, November 24, 2012 | Go to article overview

Livestock Industry Growing Superbugs?


If news is supposed to be new, it's surprising there was any coverage at all when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced to reporters earlier this month that drug-resistant superbugs must be addressed through more prudent use of antibiotics.

"How we use and protect these precious drugs must fundamentally change," Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for health-care-associated infection prevention programs at the CDC, says in a Reuters report. The CDC is linking up with 25 health-care organizations to raise awareness.

These groups are warning that without action, patients could soon face a time when antibiotics are powerless to treat many common infections.

Dr. David Relman, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said in the same report doctors are already seeing patients with bacterial infections resistant to "every antibiotic we have left."

"It will take all of us -- consumers, health-care providers, researchers, policymakers, industry, and others -- to tackle this problem," he said. There is no argument that doctors need to prescribe these medications more judiciously. But this coalition wants these drugs on a prescription-only basis for the animal industry too, a recommendation that would significantly change how the livestock industry operates.

Equally non-newsworthy was the press release issued by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) after it hosted a symposium on the same issue that same week.

In it, the NIAA rambles from the obvious: "antibiotics dramatically improve human, animal and plant health, and increase life expectancy," to the surreal, characterizing antimicrobial resistance as a "topic" that is "subtle, complex, difficult and polarizing."

What is noteworthy is that so little is being done to address it, despite health agencies from the World Health Organization right down to local public health officials ringing alarm bells.

Here in Canada, it's like a UFO on the radar screen. Everyone seems to realize it's big and potentially harmful, but no one wants to venture out of the control tower to deal with it.

Three federal agencies, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada monitor for resistant microbes in the food-animal sector. …

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