Data released in December by the Food and Drug Administration revealed that most antibiotics sold and distributed in 2009 in the United States were used on livestock. Twenty-eight million pounds were used on agricultural animals while a little over seven million pounds were used on humans.
The only microbiologist who is currently serving as a representative in Congress, Louise Slaughter from New York, recently confirmed these numbers with the FDA and is working on legislation for reducing the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Her proposed law is titled The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA).
Slaughter said, “We know that the widespread use of antibiotics on healthy animals is contributing to the growth of bacteria resistance to the drugs we use to treat humans.” (Source: slaughter.house.gov)
A study of cattle feed lot practices came to a similar conclusion: “Growing evidence exists that antibiotic use in agriculture is affecting antibiotic resistance in human pathogens via the food supply.”
A study conducted by the University of Iowa found that 49 percent of hogs and 45 percent of farm workers observed had a new strain of MRSA, a type of bacteria that is resistant to most antibiotics. The farms studied routinely use antibiotics on their animals.
Dr. Shelley Hearne, a public health professor and researcher said, “If the bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics, it can actually spread in many ways. It could be in the food supply, but it also can be in waters that runoff in a farm. It could be in the air. It can happen very quickly in many different ways. It’s why it’s a practice that has to stop on the farms.” (Source: CBSNews.com) Another potential concern is that people could come into contact with MRSA by handling tainted meat from animals that came from farms where antibiotics were used routinely.
Maryn Mckenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MSRA, summarized the problem, saying “When you use antibiotics [this way], they don’t stay on the farm. They leave the farm in the systems of animals and leave the animals in manure. [Modern agriculture] generates a lot of manure. Those big lagoons are enormous petri dishes for the breeding of resistant organisms.” (Source: Time.com)