Antibiotic Use in Industrial Food Animal Production Gaining Notice

Two op-ed articles were published in The New York Times this past week by Nicholas Kristof in regards to the misuse of antibiotics in animal feed. Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health was in the NYT on Wednesday (3/11) and Pathogens in Our Pork appeared in Saturday’s (3/14) edition. It is encouraging to see such an often overlooked public health issue being brought to the attention of the millions of NYT readers.

Mr. Kristof brings up the point that any medical doctor can tell you: when you overuse and misuse antibiotics, resistance inevitably follows. With 70 percent of all antibiotic use in the United States going into animal feed (at sub-therapeutic levels), a pathway to antibiotic resistant bacteria is clear. And now for the really scary part, “These dangerous pathogens [antibiotic resistant bacteria] are now even in our food supply.” Read More >

Hog Farms, Spread of MRSA, Subject of NYT Column

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof hit on antibiotic resistance today in his opinion column. Kristof reports traveling to the small town of Camden, Indiana, where a recently deceased doctor uncovered a frightening number of residents with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Turns out that the small Indiana town is surrounded by a large number of industrial hog farms. Kristof points to the 2004 dutch study which showed pigs could infect people with MRSA, and mentions the recent study from the University of Iowa that found 45 percent of pig farmers examined carried MRSA. Kristof concludes, “so what’s going on here, and where do these antibiotic-resistant infections come from? Probably from the routine use — make that the insane overuse — of antibiotics in livestock feed.” He promises another column in Sunday’s Times that will focus more on the issue.

Study Connects MRSA in Swine and Swine Workers

A new study published by the University of Iowa connects Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Midwestern US swine farms and swine workers and suggests transmission between the two. Prior to the study, there was only knowledge of the prevalence of this bacterium in locations including the Netherlands and Canada. MRSA is resistant to a wide array of antibiotics, and this University of Iowa study linked MRSA with an estimated 94,000 infections and over 18,000 deaths in the United States in 2005, based on data taken from several metropolitan areas. Read More >