Posts tagged: antibiotic resistant organisms

Food For Thought: Antibiotic Resistance Generated in Food Production

The expression “food for thought” is often used proverbially more than literally, although results from FDA reports make it necessary to consider how our food and livestock are processed and put serious thought into the food we eat. To make the case immediately apparent, consider that four fifths of all antibiotic consumption in the USA is not human consumption; it’s consumed by farm animals. To quantify this statement, in 2011, 7.7 million pounds of antibiotics were consumed by American people, while 29.9 million pounds went into meat and poultry production.


Antibiotics Sold to Livestock Industry vs. Sold for Human Consumption.

The proportion of antibiotics fed to livestock is not a recent issue, it has been growing and the problems that arise from it have accumulated for over 50 years. An alarming development of bacteria that had grown drug resistant due to antibiotics in the livestock industry is MRSA (short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which is a persistent threat to human health. Estimates indicate that MRSA kills 19,000 Americans each year, hospitalizes 370,000, and results in billions of dollars of additional health care spending. The intent of these statistics is not to frighten, but to raise awareness concerning administering millions of pounds of antibiotics annually to artificially boost animal growth. Maryn McKenna wrote a book chronicling the rise and danger of these superbugs (

What is important to note is that a vast majority of the provided antibiotics is not to target infections or better animal health. It is administered at a herd or flock wide basis through the animals water source or feed to promote growth and weight gain, as well as to preventatively help livestock survive harsh farm and living conditions. This is one reason why antibiotics are used, another is for therapy. Therapy is used when farm animals exhibit clinical diseases, and drugs can be an effective way to prevent catastrophic health risks that could be detrimental to the agricultural sector.

Administering antibiotics to animals is not an inherently bad thing to do, although it can become detrimental if done without caution and concern. The FDA’s report on the application of antimicrobial drugs in industry warns that “the development of resistance to this important class of drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a serious public health threat”. In this article, the main point is not to suggest entirely eliminating antibiotic consumption in the livestock industry, but to manage it judiciously by targeting specific diseases. Another significant argument is that farmers and food corporations should “voluntarily” withdraw from using drugs which have a functional similarity to drugs used in humans, since this would reduce the concern for transmitting resistive bacteria on to humans through our food. Use of antibiotics for livestock growth promotion has been banned by many European countries, as they have determined that similar investment in more food resulted in the same growth yields without the additional antibiotic resistance generation.

It is evident that we can no longer take how our food is produced for granted. The expression food for thought is no longer some overused metaphor, it is a reality.

Antibiotic Resistance: Are We Winning the Battle, But Losing the War?

Laziness, disillusionment, anger— these are just a few words that come to mind when considering the problem of antibiotic resistance.   From the deliberate misuse of antibiotics in animal feeds, to wide-spread, inappropriate prescriptions for viral infections, the sheer scale of the problem lends itself to feelings of powerlessness and frustration.  For many of us, it’s simply easier to ignore the warning signs and shrug off the future consequences of doing nothing.  Unfortunately, the reality is that people are dying every day—in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities—from bacteria that were once treated with antibiotic therapy. What were once miracle drugs just a few decades ago—able to eradicate any bacterial infection in the blink of an eye— are now no longer working for a number of infections.  With a lack of good treatment options against resistant strains such as MRSA, enterococci, and c. difficile, frontline health professionals are becoming increasingly alarmed and frightened for future patients.

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Healthcare-Associated Infections: A $35-$45 billion problem

“Healthcare-associated infections are one of the biggest causes of avoidable harm and unnecessary death in the developed world” – World Health Organization

Healthcare-associated infections kill more than 99,000 people every year

Over the next few blog posts, we’ll be discussing a group of infections known as healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs. In the US alone, more than 99,000 people die each year from these infections1. While this cost on human life is high, the financial toll is equally staggering . The World Health Organization has called the HAIs one of the biggest causes of avoidable harm and unnecessary deaths in the developed world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that HAIs add $35-$45 billion in costs to the US healthcare system each year2. As such, healthcare-associated infections have become a costly public health concern that demands immediate attention.

HAIs occur when a patient acquires an infection during the course of treatment at, or a visit to, a healthcare facility. After a patient acquires a HAI, the ramifications are often excessively expensive and deadly. In fact, HAIs are responsible for more deaths each year than car accidents, breast cancer, anorexia or AIDS. On average, they add 19 days to a patient’s hospital stay, and increase medical expenses by more than $45,0003. Read more »

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