You’ve Got Mail: Antibiotic Resistance, Animal Ag, and More

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

As Congress returns to work this week, the Pew Health Group and a dozen other scientific, medical, and public health organizations have submitted a joint letter aimed at senators, representatives, legislative staffers and the FDA. The letter, titled “Sound Science: Antibiotic Use in Food Animals Leads to Drug Resistant Infections in People,” is a renewed clarification of the state of scientific knowledge concerning ways in which industrial food animal production (IFAP) contributes to human antibiotic resistance.

Those familiar with the antibiotic resistance issue will recognize the case that the letter makes for ending the misuse of antibiotics in food animals. While the letter makes a clear and solid case for rethinking the use of antibiotics in food animals, I’d like to make some additional points. First, given their close contact with animals and animal waste in the workplace, employees of IFAP facilities are the ones at greatest risk for becoming infected with drug-resistant pathogens. Also, IFAP sites degrade the communities in which they’re sited by contaminating air, water and soils with an extensive variety of site-origined biological and chemical hazards, and by creating indelible rifts in the social fabric that once tied many of these rural communities together. Further, research has demonstrated that these phenomena often occur in low-income communities of color—in many cases, at the expense of people who are not empowered to defend themselves against the injustices they face. Read More >

Flies May Spread Drug-Resistant Bacteria from Poultry Operations

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found evidence that houseflies collected near broiler poultry operations may contribute to the dispersion of drug-resistant bacteria and thus increase the potential for human exposure to drug-resistant bacteria. The findings demonstrate another potential link between industrial food animal production and exposures to antibiotic resistant pathogens. Previous studies have linked antibiotic use in poultry production to antibiotic resistant bacteria in farm workers, consumer poultry products and the environment surrounding confined poultry operations, as well as releases from poultry transport

The research was funded by a grant from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

“Flies are well-known vectors of disease and have been implicated in the spread of various viral and bacterial infections affecting humans, including enteric fever, cholera, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis and shigellosis,” said lead author Jay Graham, PhD, who conducted the study as a research fellow with Bloomberg School’s Center for a Livable Future. Our study found similarities in the antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both the flies and poultry litter we sampled. The evidence is another example of the risks associated with the inadequate treatment of animal wastes.” Read More >