Friday, September 16, 2011

Doctors Take Aim At Antibiotic Resistance From Factory Farming

As the U.S. government stalls, other countries are moving ahead. Denmark, the world's leading exporter of pork, began phasing out non-therapeutic use of antibiotics more than 15 years ago.

Many U.S. experts on antibiotic resistance are frustrated that it has taken their country so long to take action. The FDA expressed their concern regarding the severity of the problem as early as the 1970s, and Ellen Silbergeld, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, suggested that the dangers have been obvious for far longer.

In 1945, upon accepting his piece of the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery and isolation of penicillin, Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming delivered an ominous warning. "The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and, by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant," said Fleming, who had observed antibiotic resistance in his lab.

His warning went largely unheeded. Soon after, the FDA approved use of the drugs in livestock feed, and the effectiveness of penicillin quickly plummeted.

In a May 2011 lawsuit filed against the FDA for failing to curtail antibiotic use in animal feed, the plaintiff, the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, cited research suggesting that nearly half of the meat and poultry products in the U.S. contained drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus -- of which more than half were resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics. Read the entire article.

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