After seeing in the last week four different mentions of antibiotic use in livestock and whether it does or does not contribute to drug-resistant superbugs, I did some reading this morning.

First, I want to mention WHY I care about this. Teddy’s more likely to get infections. He’s more likely to die of infections. I kind of have grown attached to him.

I’ll also add this: how about if we raise our animals in an environment where they don’t require antibiotics just to make it to harvest? I’m not necessarily opposed to animal lots or conventional animal farming. But if you have to dose your animals with antibiotics just to keep them alive until you can harvest them, wouldn’t that tip you off that maybe there’s a problem?

“over 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are used in food animals (and the vast majority of this use is for animals that are not sick).”

“Many studies show a multitude of resistant organisms on meat and poultry products purchased in grocery stores. For example, a recent study of meat and poultry from five U.S. cities found Staphylococcus aureus on 47 percent of samples. Ninety-six percent of those samples were resistant to at least one antibiotic, and 52 percent were multi-drug resistant.”

“When farm animals receive antibiotics in doses too low to kill all the infectious bacteria in them, those bacteria that survive and flourish do so because they are resistant to the drug. As they multiply and interact with other bacteria, they pass on their resistance. Bacteria can even share the traits that make them drug-resistant with other kinds of bacteria, leading to widespread drug-resistance and the creation of bacterial super-bugs.”

Numerous studies have demonstrated that routine use of antibiotics on the farm promotes drug-resistant superbugs in those facilities. Some of the most dramatic evidence came as a result of FDA approval of flouroquinolones–a class of antibiotics that includes Cipro (ciprofloxacin), which has been used in poultry production since 1995. By 1999 nearly 20 percent chicken breasts sampled contained ciprofloxacin-resistant Camplobacter, adisease-causing bacteria.
After a long fight in the courts, FDA finally banned use of the drug in 2005, at which point nearly 30 percent of C. coli found in chicken breasts were ciprofloxacin resistant; by 2010, resistance to ciprofloxacin had declined to 13.5 percent.
This article goes on to discuss how these superbugs find their way to humans, which occurs both through contaminated food, as well as through the environment (through people on farms spreading them the good old-fashioned way, through water and air).
I found this to be particularly interesting, considering a recent Facebook “thing” I saw claiming that most of the drugs used in animals can’t affect humans anyway:
The industry says that 40 percent of all the antibiotics used on the farm are drugs (called ionophores) not used in human medicine, so it doesn’t matter if bacteria become resistant to them. However, a study by scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cornell University involving monensin, one of the most commonly used ionophores in cattle production in the U.S., demonstrated that use of monensin in cattle feed and the selection of monensin-resistant ruminal bacteria lead to a 32-fold increase in resistance to bacitracin, which is used in human medicine.
This study demonstrates that one cannot claim that ionophores cannot select for cross resistance to any antibiotic used in human medicine. The study called
for more research.


The FDA has banned the use of medically important drugs in livestock for growth promotion purposes. But this seems completely ineffective considering that there is no ban on their use to compensate for overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

On Wednesday, December 11, 2013 the FDA released the final FDA Guidance for Industry #213 and draft Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). This is the first time since 1977 the FDA has taken broad action against the use of antibiotics in livestock. Once fully implemented, these policies will eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion. Still, the Obama administration will need to eliminate the use of antibiotics for other sub-therapeutic purposes, such as the use of low-dose antibiotics in healthy animals to account for unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.”


Plus, the FDA’s “Ban” is hardly anything resembling an actual BAN.

After identifying this problem 35 years ago, the FDA is now simply asking veterinary drug manufacturers to stop advertising growth promotion as a legitimate use on drug labels. These companies have 90 days to tell the FDA whether or not they will comply, and will then have an additional three years to change the labels.


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