Can I just complain about how ridiculously STUPID the over-use of antibiotics in agriculture is? Antibiotics are regularly used prophylactically in livestock in order to fatten up the animals and to compensate for the abhorrently unsanitary conditions in commercial feedlots. Neither of those things are okay in the least. They are appalling in themselves.
But if you don’t care that pigs, cows, chickens and turkeys are dirty and fat, you may say, “so what?”
The “so what” is that pathogenic bacteria are QUICKLY adapting to antibiotics and are getting stronger. This is speeding up the process of antibiotic resistance among bacteria that can not only make livestock sick, but can also make humans sick. When YOU get sick with one of these bacterial infections that is resistant to antibiotics, well, you may be screwed, because even fluoroquinolones don’t touch some of these nasty, antibiotic resistant, bacteria.
According to the CDC:
“Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.”
For a while the CDC, FDA and others, led by the pharma and big-ag lobbies, tried to BS (lie to) us all by saying that antibiotic resistance in livestock had nothing to do with antibiotic resistance to humans. The 2013 CDC Report on Antibiotic / Antibmicrobial Resistance settled that argument as it noted that:
“Antibiotics are widely used in food-producing animals, and according to data published by FDA, there are more kilograms of antibiotics sold in the United States for food-producing animals than for people… This use contributes to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food-producing animals. Resistant bacteria in food-producing animals are of particular concern because these animals serve as carriers. Resistant bacteria can contaminate the foods that come from those animals, and people who consume these foods can develop antibiotic-resistant infections. Antibiotics must be used judiciously in humans and animals because both uses contribute to not only the emergence, but also the persistence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
Here is a good article in Wired explaining the CDC report – “CDC Threat Report: Yes, Agricultural Antibiotics Play a Role in Drug Resistance.”
The reports are in. The scientific consensus has been stated. Over-use of antibiotics in agriculture is hurting humans. So, perhaps we should stop over-using antibiotics in agriculture. That seems like a good idea. Too bad the big-ag and pharma pockets are deep and they control the hearts and minds of legislators. More info on that can be found here – http://www.healthline.com/health/antibiotics/politics-pork-and-poultry-why-legislation-has-not-passed
As bacteria in livestock become resistant to penicillin and sulfa antibiotics, fluoroquinolones will be used more frequently. Fluoroquinolones already are being used in livestock, just not as frequently as other, safer, antibiotics. But as bacteria become resistant to safer antibiotics, fluoroquinolone use will surely increase. For humans as well, as antibiotic resistance increases, fluoroquinolone use will increase. Doctors will have to pull out the “big guns” because the smaller ones will no longer work.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria are not only harming livestock and people, they are harming the earth itself. The animals that are given antibiotics excrete those antibiotics (everybody poops – and pees) and the antibiotics go onto the earth / the soil. This messes up the microbiome of the soil (yes, soil has a microbiome) and more antibiotic resistant bacteria thrive in the soil. That’s the topic of THIS POST. Our earth is, literally, getting floxed. It’s going to get worse too, as stronger and stronger antibiotics become preferred in agriculture, because the traditional ones are no longer doing the job. The fluoroquinolones will hurt the animals that they are given to, destroy the microbiome of the soil, and leave us Floxies with nothing to eat. Great.
I wish I didn’t think this was going to happen in my lifetime, but I fear that it will.
The antibiotic arms race will likely continue, with increasingly powerful antibiotics being developed to compensate for antibiotic resistance. Those synthetic antibiotics will likely have the same, or worse, devastating “side-effects” as fluoroquinolones. Destruction of the microbiome and destruction of mitochondria is consequential for human health, animal health, and the health of the earth itself – the soil. Though the importance of the microbiome is starting to be recognized, it may be too late to stop destroying our microbiome with antibiotics. (The alternative is to fight pathogenic bacteria with helpful bacteria.) We are accustomed to turning to drugs, and to wantonly killing bacteria. I don’t see us stopping any time soon.
The bacteria will die – because there isn’t any political will to stop being foolish with antibiotics. The insects (pests) will die – because there isn’t any political will to protect them from pesticides. The bees will die – because corporate profits are, apparently, more important than our food supply. The frogs will die – because no one understands non-linear hormonal responses.
Perhaps, with a painful number of human deaths from this ridiculousness, we’ll, collectively, stop being so stupid. Maybe. Because 23,000 human deaths per year (from antibiotic resistant bacteria) haven’t made policy-makers do squat about the over-use of antibiotics in agriculture. Recommendations for prudent antibiotic use are put into place, but no actual changes are made. Recommendations. Recommendations will do nothing to solve this problem – nothing.
P.S. – Sorry for not being hopeful. Here’s something I hope – I hope that the canaries in the coal mine are listened to. That’s what we are – canaries. Is anyone listening?