Dispensing antibiotics to healthy animals is routine on the large, concentrated farms that now dominate American agriculture. But the practice is increasingly condemned by medical experts who say it contributes to a growing scourge of modern medicine: the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including dangerous E. coli strains that account for millions of bladder infections each year, as well as resistant types of salmonella. ¦Livestock and poultry have been identified as the most likely sources of drug-resistant strains of microbes like salmonella and campylobacter that have caused outbreaks of severe intestinal illness in people and of E. coli strains that cause serious bladder, blood and other infections¦.Resistance can evolve whenever drugs are used against bacteria or other microbes because substrains that are less susceptible to the treatment will survive and multiply.
Now, after decades of debate, the Food and Drug Administration appears poised to issue its strongest guidelines on animal antibiotics yet, intended to reduce what it calls a clear risk to human health. They would end farm uses of the drugs simply to promote faster animal growth and call for tighter oversight by veterinarians. ¦The producers are vigorously opposing it even as many medical and health experts call it too timid.
¦Scores of scientific groups, including the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, are calling for even stronger action that would bar most uses of key antibiotics in healthy animals, including use for disease prevention,
…leading medical experts say the threat is real and growing.
…Those who say there is no evidence of risk are discounting 40 years of science.
Proponents of strong controls note that the European Union barred most nontreatment uses of antibiotics in 2006 and that farmers there have adapted without major costs. Following a similar path in the United States, they argue, would have barely perceptible effects on consumer prices.
Scores of scientific groups, including the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, are calling for even stronger action that would bar most uses of key antibiotics in healthy animals, including use for disease prevention, ¦
In a letter to Congress in July, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cited compelling evidence of a clear link between antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.
As drug-resistant strains of microbes evolve on the farms, they are passed along in meat sold in grocery stores. They can infect people as they handle the uncooked product or when eating, if cooking is not thorough. The dangerous strains can also enter the environment via manure or the clothes of farm workers.
Genetic studies of drug-resistant E. coli strains found on poultry and beef in grocery stores and strains in sick patients have found them to be virtually identical, and further evidence also indicated that the resistant microbes evolved on farms and were transferred to consumers
For those of us in the public health community, the evidence is unambiguously clear,
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