Superbugs, Antibiotic Resistance, and Farm Animals

According to the CDC, 23,000 people die each year from a bacteria infection that is resistant to antibiotics and at least 2 million people will become infected. The problem is not only from overuse of antibiotics by humans, it is also from the antibiotics in food from factory farming. Prevention published a great article on this topic that discusses how the Netherlands was able to drastically reduce antibiotic exposure to citizens through new government mandates. The new rules only allow farmers to use antibiotics if an animal is sick. They cannot be used anymore as a preventative medicine. Currently in the United States, animals are given low doses of antibiotics on an ongoing basis to prevent infection due to overcrowding and stressful conditions. Additionally, the Dutch rules indicate veterinarians have to prescribe antibiotics if necessary and they are required to first prescribe medicines that do not stimulate the production of  ESBLs, antibiotic-resistant enzymes. If a veterinarian determines an animal needs a medicine that does stimulate the production of ESBL, extensive documentation must be provided. The United States is shamefully behind in this area where change is typically driven by the market. There is still hope as consumers continue to sign petitions and request antibiotic free meat from grocery stores. Go out and be an advocate. It can help all of us move toward a healthier future.

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