Wednesday, April 1, 2009

open up your veins

I think I've alluded to the problem of how antibiotic use in factory farming leads to super viruses, but I don't think I've ever done a post about it. I heard a piece on the radio about it this morning, and then used google news to find some stories on the topic. The best one I could find was from the Los Angeles Times and called A healthy resistance to antibiotics.

The problem is this:
- The sheer unhealthiness of factory farming (the confinement, the injection of steroids, the lack of exercise, and even completely f%$*cking up the animals' diet as when cows, who eat grass, are fed soy and estrogen instead) would kill all the animals unless they were pumped full of antibiotics to try and keep them alive.

- Bacteria, viruses and pathogens such as MRSA are in the livestock and are constantly battling with the antibiotics fed to the animals. Through this battle they get stronger and become resistant to the antibiotics (which are the same drugs that humans use and need to fight infections etc).

- So, these antibiotic resistant pathogens then make their way into the human population, and since the pathogens have already encountered and defeated our medications while in the animal population, we no longer have any way to treat humans infected with the virus.

As the above mentioned LA Times article mentions, MRSA all by itself kills more people in the U.S. each year than AIDS.
The rise of bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which kills more people in this country each year than AIDS, is believed to be a consequence of the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals. Low doses of the medications have become ubiquitous in the livestock industry, mixed into feed to enhance growth and prevent the diseases that sweep through crowded pens.

A panel of experts found "clear evidence of adverse human health consequences due to resistant organisms resulting from nonhuman usage of antimicrobials," the World Health Organization reported in 2004.



Image is from an online article titled From Dyes to Peptides: The Evolution of Antibiotic Drugs. It also provides some nice coverage of this issue:

In the 1950s, it was noted that antibiotics fed to livestock increased growth rates and animal size leading and thus increased production. It quickly became common practice to include antibiotics in animal feed. When antibiotics began to be used as food additives, there was no regulation behind it. Any antibiotic including those used for human therapy could be used.

At the same time, it became common practice to house livestock in confined and concentrated quarters. Farm animals such as chickens when allowed to roam free have limited egg and meat production, so farmers began to collect large numbers of chickens together to increase production. Factory farming led to the rapid spread of infections throughout farms and the use of antibiotics vastly increased to try to counter it. With the common use of antibiotics in farming, resistant genes were emerging in livestock bacteria and residual antibiotics were being ingested by humans, contributing to antibiotic resistance in human pathogens.

1 comment:

Urban Environmentalist said...

This is so scary. I can't believe we even allow this in our country..then again...I'm not really all the surprised I guess!