chickens

An advisory committee of the White House will acknowledge the connection between antibiotics fed to livestock and antibiotic resistant infections in a forthcoming report on the issue, reports Reuters.

The report is expected to address the public health problems connected with antibiotic use in farming practices, but the committee says its still unclear just how much of a connection there is between antibiotic use and antibiotic resistant infections.

According to a transcript from a meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) earlier this month, council co-Chairman Eric Lander said “there was ’clear documentation’ that antibiotic-resistant microbes can transfer from farm animals to humans,” Reuters reports.

“That judicious use [of antibiotics] in agriculture right now is absolutely essential,” Lander said. “There may come a point where one will say it’s justified to say no use.”

The report is expected to make recommendations that will suggest the following, according to Reuters: “the development of new antibiotics; setting up a federal inter-agency task force on antibiotic resistance; finding alternatives to human-relevant antibiotics for livestock producers to use to promote animal growth and prevent disease, and increasing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s powers to expedite the approval of antibiotics for limited or specialized uses.”

And just last week, Representative Louise M. Slaughter, (D-NY), who is also the only microbiologist in Congress, sent a letter to the president asking for “an executive order requiring that all federally purchased meat be raised without antibiotics and calling for the establishment of PCAST’s recommended inter-agency task force, among measures to address the problem,” Reuters explained.

According to Lander, taking these steps on antibiotic use are necessary to stay ahead of the “cat-and-mouse game played at this microscopic level between our agents, our therapeutics, and these microbes.”

Antibiotic resistant infections have become so widespread around the globe that the World Health Organization has warned that the post-antibiotic era is already upon us where a minor cut or scrape could become lethal if infections fail to respond to antibiotics.

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Image: Oregon Department of Agriculture