Doctors Join Fight Against Livestock Antibiotics
A number of doctors are beginning to express concerns about the growing incidence of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in humans. Much of this proliferation is believed to be the result of the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock as a preventative measure in response to the overcrowded and often unsanitary conditions that the animals are often kept in. According to the Worldwatch Institute's 2006 State of the world report, 74 percent of the world's poultry, 43 percent of beef, and 68 percent of eggs are now produced this way.
Because of the way antibiotics kill off entire populations of bacteria, any organisms that manage to survive will find themselves with little to no competition for nutrients and will therefor flourish. The resulting antibiotic-resistant strains have become highly problematic. In fact, one group of pathogens known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), is now responsible for more deaths each year than AIDS.
The part of the antibiotic resistance story that is associated with food production, "is largely hidden for docs," said Oakland area cardiologist Jeff Ritterman, one of many doctors who have begun to get involved in this issue. Ritterman claims he was shocked when he first heard that 80 percent of the nation's antibiotics are given to livestock.
While industry leaders and their PR representatives deny any connection between the use of livestock antibiotics and the outbreaks of resistant strains, a growing number of doctors are taking exception. It's a scientific fact that given this many opportunities to proliferate, drug-resistant strains will inevitably emerge.