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Medicine Science

Farm Workers Carry Drug-Resistant Staph Despite Partial FDA Antibiotics Ban 120

An anonymous reader writes "New research out of the University of North Carolina now shows factory farm workers actually carry drug-resistant staph. Europe has long ago banned the use of antibiotics in livestock, but the FDA remains behind the curve with a partial ban. Thanks to large industrial farming operations, we all remain continuously at risk as our last line of antibiotics is wasted on animals."
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Farm Workers Carry Drug-Resistant Staph Despite Partial FDA Antibiotics Ban

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:03AM (#44173491)

    Contrary to what it say above, antibiotics are not completely banned in Europe for preemptive use in farm animal production. However, there is a list of approved antibiotics for such uses, and relevance of the antibiotics for human medicine is a factor in the rules.

    Here is a link to the Danish treatment guidelines: http://www.foedevarestyrelsen.dk/english/SiteCollectionDocuments/25_PDF_word_filer%20til%20download/05kontor/Behandlingsvejledning_2011_engelsk.xls [foedevarestyrelsen.dk] (warning: Excel). In column J there is a ranking of relevance to human medicine.

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:08AM (#44174027)

    To think that farm workers provided a vital clue to eradicating smallpox, when Jenner (and others) noticed that after infection with the less dangerous 'cowpox' they were effectively immune.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Jenner [wikipedia.org]

    Mankind's ability to abuse and abase the scientific gifts of such great men is seemingly limitless.

  • Corn (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @07:51AM (#44174655)
    Cattle will have impressive weight gains when you feed them (heavily subsidized) corn. Until it starts to kill them, as their digestive system didn't evolve (there's that word again) to process an industrialized grain. But you can stave off that death for a while with heavy doses of antibiotics. Just long enough to get them to the slaughterhouse.

    Bon Appetit.
  • by crmarvin42 ( 652893 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @08:59AM (#44175187)
    Who says we are applying them randomly to livestock? Antibiotics cost money and animal producers have to deal with a boom bust cycle of profitabilitlity that means unnecessary expenses must be cut whenever possible. They are VERY deliberate in their decisions regarding any feed ingredient becuase feed accounts for 60 to 80% of the cost of bringing their prouduct to market. A 5% savings in total feed costs could spell the difference between losing money and making money.

    For an MD, however, the incentives are all stacked in favor of reckless use. Malpractice insurance forces MD's to side on the side of overprescription becuase they don't want to be sued for witholding antibiotics that turn out to have been necessary. Patients come in expecting to be prescribed something, and if they aren't they are more than willing to make another appointment with a doctor who will prescribe them what they want. Currently all of the negatives of antibiotic resistance development can be blamed on Agriculture (even in the EU which is rediculous considering the bans), so why risk malpractice or disgruntled patients to prevent a negative outcome no one will blame you for anyway?

    I believe that use in animals does contribute. I stated as such in my post. However, it is my opinion that the relative impact of animal vs. human prescribing on the resistance problem are orders of magnitude different and banning in livestock will only make marginal improvements at best. That may be good for human medicine, but I believe that a cost-benefit analysis will show that the benefit to human medicine will be far outstriped by the cost to human food security from both a supply and sanitation perspective. I base this opinion not on my own vested interest (I'm responsible for supporting a sales force that sells antibiotic alternatives to livestock producers, so ban is good for me personally), but on attempts I've seen to model antibiotic resistance development.

    Also, at the risk of sounding callous we need to keep in mind that most resistant infections are not fatal. No one said that these farmers with MRSA were dying. Only that they had MRSA present. As long as their immune system is not dramatically compromized they are capable of fighting off MRSA, becuase MRSA is not immune to antibodies, macrophages, or any other part of the acue phase response. They are only resistant to a single supportive therapy that most people don't actually need. That doesn't reduce the importance in the immunocompromized (Very young, elderly, those with other immune compromizing conditions, etc.). But it's not like MRSA is Ebola.

    MRSA isn't even as bad as Salmonella, which can actually make an otherwise healthy person sick, is endogenous to poultry, and can be controlled via antibiotics in poultry feed. By banning sub-theraputic doses of antibiotics in poultry you increase the risk of food-borne salmonella infections which can kill the perfectly healthy among us... Unlike MRSA! This is why the decision to ban should have been based on a holistic cost-benefit analysis instead of the regressive "Precautionary Principle" which is motivated more by irrational fear than evidence.
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @10:42AM (#44176475) Homepage

    Who says we are applying them randomly to livestock?

    Dr. Glen Morris
    Union of Concerned Scientists
    I got all that from the first few hits on a Google search for "Antibiotics livestock" [lmgtfy.com]

    Here are a few quotes from some of the articles:

    Yet the United States continues to use at least 70 percent of its antibiotics on livestock, to shave pennies per pound from the price of pork chops or chicken

    Meat producers have fed growth-promoting antibiotics to food animals for years.

    Millions of pounds of antibiotics are routinely administered at low doses to large numbers of animals living in crowded conditions, not because they are sick, but to speed their growth and prevent possible infections

    Your economic argument explains why they are doing it. It makes them money because the animals are fatter.

  • by rajanala83 ( 813645 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:47PM (#44180867)
    This experiment is already done on a much wider scale . - whit the EU and the US as experimental subjects, so to speak. One banning the use of antibiotics for growth enhancement, and one doesn't. A natural experiment, if you want. And there have been pages upon pages of written summaries, reports, studies, etc on the topic, and comparisons, and what not. There even is a transatlantic study group, TATFAR, and here is a visual summary detailing the EU efforts: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/130516a.htm [europa.eu] EU legislation on animal nutrition banned the use of antibiotics used for growth promotion in animal feed from January 2006. In 2009 the Panel on Biological Hazards assessed the public health significance of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in animals and foods. It concludes that livestock-associated MRSA represents only a small proportion of all reported MRSA infections in the EU with significant differences between Member States. So the conclusion seems to be that bannin growth enhancing antibiotic use is a crucial step in preventing the rise of resistant microbiota in those conditions, but (of course) not enough to stop the evolution of resistant strains in, for example hospital environments...

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama