August 17, 2010
Congressional testimony by two high-ranking government officials in April revealed some misconceptions about the mounting evidence over the use of antibiotics in industrial farm animal production and links to antibiotic resistance in humans.
To clarify the case, Keeve Nachman, PhD, MHS, and director of CLF’s Farming for the Future Program, and Robert Lawrence, MD, director of CLF, wrote to Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Anthony Fauci, MD, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Both Frieden and Fauci provided testimony before the Subcommittee on Health of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the second of three hearings examining antibiotic resistance. A third committee hearing on Antibiotic Resistance and the Use of Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture” was held July 14.
“We reviewed with great interest your testimony and Q&A session,” they wrote. “What we’ve found in our review of the transcript underscores the need for the public health community to ensure that findings of our research are effectively and accurately communicated with those responsible for legislative and regulatory policy.”
The letter clarified several statements made during the hearing, noting the research community has “extensively characterized how use of antibiotics in food animal production contributes to the emergence of multidrug resistant bacteria.” Nachman and Lawrence also said public health researchers have “demonstrated the capacity for transport of these microbes from the animal production sites (animal houses and processing plants) to environmental media (air, water and soil) and foods with which humans have contact.”
In July, Frieden responded to several questions brought up in the hearing in a letter to Frank Pallone, Jr., (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Health Subcommittee. “…a strong body of evidence from Europe demonstrates that antibiotic use in animals is linked with antibiotic resistance in humans,” he wrote. “We have thoroughly reviewed these studies and have found them to be well-designed and rigorous, and to establish a clear link between antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.”