Study on Drug-Resistant Staph and Store-Bought Meat: What Most News Reports Are Missing

Staphylococcus aureus, Image Courtesy: CDC

Staphylococcus aureus, Image Courtesy: CDC

According to a recently published nationwide study of grocery store meats, the next time you handle a piece of meat or poultry bought at your local supermarket there is nearly a 50 percent chance that it will be carrying drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (Staph). The Translational Genomics Research Institute study determined that the majority of those bacteria are likely resistant to several classes of antibiotics. Antibiotic-resistant strains of Staph are to blame for a host of illnesses, ranging from simple skin infections to life-threatening diseases, such as pneumonia and sepsis. Staph infects an estimated 500,000 patients in U.S. hospitals annually and more deathsdeaths are blamed on Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)infections every year than HIV/AIDS. Infectious disease experts warn the consequences of rendering antibiotics useless would be disastrous to modern medicine, which depends on antibiotics for everything from organ transplant surgeries and cancer therapies to the care of patients with trauma or battlefield injuries.

The frequency of detection of resistant bacteria on meat purchased in grocery stores is alarming.  Despite this, most of the news coverage we’ve seen this week misses a key message that can be gleaned from the conclusions of the study. The study does not point directly to new or heightened food-safety risks to the consumer, rather, it serves as verification that one of human medicine’s strongest safeguards against disease is quickly losing its efficacy, in part due to inappropriate use of antibiotics in the industrial food animal production system. Read More >

Meeting local needs in a movement for global change

In addressing far-reaching global issues like public health, nutrition, social justice and the environment, the road to creating positive change in these areas often begins in our own neighborhood.

Baltimore City, home to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the School of Public Health, suffers from stark disparities in access to healthy foods.  A 2008 study found predominantly black and low-income neighborhoods offered significantly fewer options for healthy foods than their predominantly white and higher-income counterparts.  This phenomenon is not unique to our city, and the downstream effects to conditions like obesity and diabetes are all too familiar among low-income and minority neighborhoods across the nation.

There is, in the eyes of some, a touch of irony in the proximity between the country’s premier school of public health and some of the most severe nutritional and health disparities.  A converse perspective, however, highlights an opportunity – and a responsibility – to bring the school’s ample faculty of mind, energy and capital to bear upon these concerns.  A strong company of faculty, staff and students, working alongside community leaders, businesses and laypersons, has been continually engaged in a concerted movement to meet the nutritional and health needs of a city that hungers for genuine sustenance.

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