Caged animals breed antibiotic resistant disease

Recent research published by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment reveals a growing number of antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens found in livestock animals from factory farming.

Advising a limitation on the amount of antibiotics used in raising animals for food, the National Reference Laboratories along with Antibiotic Resistance at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, were concerned at the drastically increasing  number of resistant pathogens.

When isolates were taken from farmed animals, strains of salmonella showed resistance to treatment. Forty eight percent of 33, 625  subjects showed resistance to one type of antibiotics and 35 percent were resistant to multiple drugs. Concerns have also been raised on the ability of drug-resistant pathogens to pass on their adaptability to other known pathogens, creating a bevy of untreatable superbugs.

The massive increase in factory farmed animals in the U.S. is at an all-time high, with nearly two billion cows, hogs and poultry birds in crammed, captive quarters where disease is unpreventable without use of antibiotics. Varieties of the drugs are regularly added to feed — some 29 million pounds of drugs — to hedge off serious illnesses that can wipe out millions of dollars in potential sales. The unseen risk, however, is the billions of dollars Americans spend each year on treating illnesses that have become resistant to antibiotics.

More and more Americans are becoming ill each year through the food they eat. Experts speculate that minor stomach flus may actually be mild cases of food poisoning from the drug-resistant strains of e coli and salmonella, commonly found in animal products.  Hospitals have become breeding grounds for deadly strains of Staph infection that do not respond to antibiotics. Drugs not commonly used in decades, such as chloramphenicol and colistin, some with potentially lethal side effects, are being reconsidered and recommended by physicians to treat the crop of diseases that have adapted to resist widely used antibiotics.

Water supplies around the country are also showing traces of drugs fed to livestock from the runoff of massive factory farms, putting millions of Americans at risk of exposure, even if eating a mostly organic diet.

With little public attention given to antibiotic use in animals over the last decade, factory farms have dramatically increased the  numbers given to livestock, depleting stockpiles of drugs that the World Health Organization classify as “critically important” to human medicine while upping resistance to them.

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Photo: Beccah!