In a stunning outbreak of common sense, an editorial in Student BMJ has experts warning that overuse of antibiotics in livestock poses definite risks to both humans and other animals.
For over 50 years farmers have been feeding antibiotics to their herds after scientists discovered the drugs improved the animals’ growth. As time wore on however, it became apparent that the practice was giving rise to resistant strains of bacteria that could prove hazardous to the public.
In 1977 Congress proposed banning the practice, but the measure was shelved “pending additional study” (or more properly, after being lobbied out of existence).
In the interim we have seen the emergence of deadly strains of e coli, as well as “a global pandemic of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection [5–12]; the global spread of drug resistance among common respiratory pathogens, including Streptococcus pneumoniae [13–19] and Mycobacterium tuberculosis [20–29]; and epidemic increases in multidrug-resistant (and, increasingly, truly pan-resistant) gram-negative bacilli”1 Additionally, “Three of four recently emerging infections in humans originate from animals: avian influenza H5N1, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Salmonella.”
The Danish authors cited in the BMJ article, as reported in ScienceDaily, assert “that the routine use of antimicrobials can be reduced substantially, while maintaining profitable animal production, and call for their use to be monitored in all countries.”
Denmark, Norway and other European countries banned routine use of antibiotics in livestock, with no significant loss of production. In 2006 the EU mandated a similar ban for all it’s member countries.
Americans on the other hand have been left to the mercy of industry lobbyists and ineffective action from their elected officials. As late as last year a “firestorm … erupted over a federal proposal recommending antibiotics only when animals are actually sick”2.
In the face of such inaction, is it any surprise then that the only recourse seems to be in the courts?