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Industrial agriculture and superbugs
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I read with interest the recent commentary ("Tackling the latest superbug threat," March 10) regarding antibiotic overuse and the creation of drug-resistant bacteria.
I agree with the good doctors' arguments, but the article fails to recognize an important contributor to antibiotic resistance: the industrial quantities of antibiotics used in large-scale pork- and chicken-producing facilities.
As physicians, we use milligram doses of antibiotics, whereas these concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs, as they're known) use pounds of antibiotics indiscriminately to boost yields and protect the animals from very crowded and unhealthy conditions. These antibiotics can be purchased without prescription in large quantities at farm and feed stores.
The bacteria the animals excrete end up in the environment and eventually become a problem for humans. It is interesting to note that an important antibiotic that infectious disease doctors rely on because of very little drug-resistance, Vancomycin, is banned for use by CAFOs facilities.
So, yes, we should be careful with prescribed antibiotics, but evidence suggests it is the non-prescribed use of antibiotics in CAFOs that is the bigger culprit. Read more from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health at: Center for a Livable Future, Antibiotics.
DR. THOMAS M. FAME
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