After years of debate, the CDC has issued a report on September 16, 2013 that the overuse of antibiotics in animals and humans has rendered some microorganisms untreatable by today’s available drugs.
The title of the report is “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013”. You can read the CDC release concerning the report at http://www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/2013/dpk-untreatable.html.
The estimated number of deaths in the US is estimated at 23,000 per year. These deaths are directly linked to mutations of the pathogens that have occurred as the pathogens survived antibiotics that were ingested or injected into humans.
The opportunity to mutate the pathogens has occurred due to overuse of antibiotics, improper cessation of antibiotic, and by medical treatments that increasingly rely on antibiotics to support the human immune system. Chemotherapy wipes out the body’s immune response.
Hospitals have created new classes of pathogens that then infect patients undergoing organ donations, joint replacements, and other surgeries. The development of these pathogens is serious in assisted living, rehabilitation centers, and other residences of senior citizens with reduced or impaired immune systems.
The CDC has issued documents to hospitals and other institutions regarding CRE organisms and the prevention of the spread of these germs.
“CRE, which stands for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, are a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics. Klebsiella species and Escherichia coli (E. coli) are examples of Enterobacteriaceae, a normal part of the human gut bacteria that can become carbapenem-resistant. Types of CRE are sometimes known as KPC (Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase) and NDM (New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase). KPC and NDM are enzymes that break down carbapenems and make them ineffective.”
You can read the details of this report at http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/organisms/cre/index.html.
Another opportunity for pathogen mutation is found in the overwhelming use of antibiotics to prevent diseases and speed growth in meat animals. This is not a new practice. For years, the agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies have fought the restrictions on use of antibiotics in beef, poultry and pork production.
Meat producers and pharmaceutical companies have asserted that there were no links between antibiotic use in animals and deaths in humans from mutated germs. That claim has now been refuted by the CDC study. The estimates of deaths at 23,000 per year due to drug resistant germs may be very low.
“To combat antibiotic resistance, CDC has identified four core actions that must be taken:
- Preventing Infections, Preventing the Spread of Resistance: Avoiding infections in the first place reduces the amount of antibiotics that have to be used and reduces the likelihood that resistance will develop during therapy;
- Tracking: CDC gathers data on antibiotic-resistant infections, causes of infections and whether there are particular reasons (risk factors) that caused some people to get a resistant infection;
- Improving Antibiotic Use/Stewardship: Perhaps the single most important action needed to greatly slow the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant infections is to change the way antibiotics are used;
- Development of Drugs and Diagnostic Tests: Because antibiotic resistance occurs as part of a natural process in which bacteria evolve, we will always need new antibiotics to keep up with resistant bacteria as well as new diagnostic tests to track the development of resistance.”
The restrictions on the use of antibiotics in animals fall in the domain of the USDA. The charter of the USDA is as follows:
“The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for developing and executing federal policies on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food. It aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger in the United States and abroad.”
Until now, the USDA may have been meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers more than working to assure food safety. The promotion of agricultural trade and production has compromised our food safety by permitting routine antibiotic use in animals. The reduction in funding for federal inspectors and allowing meat producers to “self-inspect” is adding to the food safety issues. The permitting of genetically modified plants and animals by the USDA is also a food safety issue.
We are fortunate that Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown is a member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition and Family Farms.
You can contact Senator Brown’s office at 202-224-2315 or toll free at his Ohio office at 1-888-896-OHIO (6446). The best way to get electronic contact is www.brown.senate.gov. Select CONTACT and select Email Sherrod on the web page. You can scroll down and enter your information and your inputs to send to Senator Brown’s staff.
Contact Senator Brown to express your concerns with continued antibiotic use for the production of meat products. Ask him to create legislation to put additional restrictions on the use of antibiotics on farm animals. The life you save could be your own, or someone else you love.