Wednesday, July 31, 2013


"Antibiotic resistance" is a subject matter of intense debate with many medical experts taking the stand, it really poses a threat to the future of humanity. Logically such resistance is evolved over a period of time by the extra ordinary versatility of some of the disease causing microbes to develop the necessary metabolizing ability to make antibiotics incapable of disrupting their biological system. To day there are a few microbes which are not amenable to most known antibiotics and development of new antibiotics is not keeping pace with the onset of resistance with increasing number of species of pathogens. One of the reasons for antibiotic resistance is their indiscriminate use whether really needed or not enabling some of the cells of the microbes able to withstand the mode of action of the antibiotics. Another more important reason is the detestable practice among poultry farms to use antibiotics to accelerate the growth of the birds with minimum feed intake in order to increase their profit margins. Naturally residual microorganisms surviving after exposure to sub-lethal doses of antibiotics used in the feed become immune to the action of these life saving drugs. It is apprehended that such massive use of antibiotics can pose serious threat in the event of epidemics involving resistant strains of some of the deadly pathogens. Here is a critic's view about the gravity of the situation, 

Concern has intensified in recent years over the use of antibiotics in agriculture, which world health authorities agree contributes to the development of drug-resistant bacteria. These so-called superbugs infect hundreds of thousands and kill tens of thousands of Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Legislation before Congress would rein in the use of medically important antibiotics on healthy livestock through mandatory restrictions as well as public disclosure of how antibiotics are used on animals and in what quantities. But such efforts face resistance from the meat industry, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the issue is better handled through voluntary guidelines it hopes to finalize this year. Critics doubt that a voluntary approach would decrease use and say the current lack of transparency would prevent anyone from knowing whether it did — an issue also noted by the Government Accountability Office. Health authorities say antibiotics should be used sparingly because any bacteria that can survive the drugs will multiply, increasing the strain's overall resistance. Dr. Jean Patel, deputy director of the Office of Antimicrobial Resistance at the CDC, calls antibiotic resistance one of the nation's most serious health threats. "Resistance often emerges in the health care setting where antimicrobial are commonly used," Patel said, "but these drugs are also used on the farm, and a number of foodborne pathogens, like salmonella, are becoming increasingly resistant to antimicrobial that are important for human health." The Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy group, analyzed government data and reported last month that 69 percent of pork chops and 81 percent of ground turkey sampled in 2011 were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Turkey raised without antibiotics — including organic turkey — carries fewer such pathogens, according to recent research by Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. About 80 percent of all antibiotics sold by weight in the U.S. in 2011 were used on livestock, according to FDA figures. That year, 7.3 million pounds of antibiotics were used to treat humans, compared with 29.9 million pounds sold for meat and poultry production. All parties in the antibiotics debate agree that it makes sense to treat sick animals with appropriate antibiotics. And almost all say that using antibiotics just to make animals grow faster — a practice long banned in the European Union — is, as the FDA puts it, "injudicious."

There are two aspects of this issue that defies logic. First the antibiotics, intended to save lives by destroying the causative bugs, are misused for a purpose other than protecting lives. Second, the reluctance on the part of safety regulators to ban such misuse through law. While in Europe such a ban is strictly enforced, in the US, the regulatory authorities under the influence of the poultry industry lobbies, refuse to frown upon the patently undesirable and dangerous practices of the industry for reasons not very clear. Imagine how crazy is the situation where 80% of the antibiotics produced in the US goes for weight increasing purpose! If this is not travesty of justice what else it is? It poses health dangers to not only US consumers but also to others importing poultry meat from this country. The current stance of the authorities to make it voluntary to declare use of antibiotics in poultry meat y the industry is shocking, being totally insensitive to the consequences that await in not too distant a future because of misuse of antibiotics! May be only a national calamity involving one of the antibiotic resistant bugs will wake the authorities for putting in place a strict regulatory/mandatory regime that will curtail the despicable practice of using antibiotics for non-medical purpose.  


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