Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Antibiotic Article Gets Facts Wrong

Pressure rises to stop antibiotics in agriculture; animals fed 70 percent of US antibiotics

By: MARGIE MASON AND MARTHA MENDOZA Associated Press12/29/09 12:19 AM EST

FRANKENSTEIN, MO. — The mystery started the day farmer Russ Kremer got between a jealous boar and a sow in heat.

The boar gored Kremer in the knee with a razor-sharp tusk. The burly pig farmer shrugged it off, figuring: "You pour the blood out of your boot and go on."

But Kremer's red-hot leg ballooned to double its size. A strep infection spread, threatening his life and baffling doctors. Two months of multiple antibiotics did virtually nothing.

The answer was flowing in the veins of the boar. The animal had been fed low doses of penicillin, spawning a strain of strep that was resistant to other antibiotics. That drug-resistant germ passed to Kremer.

Like Kremer, more and more Americans — many of them living far from barns and pastures — are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people.

Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs — 28 million pounds — went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it's 50 percent. Read More

Efforts to restrict the ability to use antibiotics as an animal health tool have been going on for awhile now. As with many news article lately, this one didn’t stand up to the first “fact-check” I did. According to the story, there were 65,000 deaths from drug-resistant infections. We have no idea where this number came from since the reporters didn’t tell us. They claim that’s more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined. But one trip to the American Cancer Society website proved that wrong. So what else in this article is wrong? Was this done to make the story more dramatic? I doubt we will ever know for sure, but I continue to be amazed at the lack of integrity and professionalism of some journalists.

Along with that, to claim that it's all the fault of agriculture is insane. Any plan to regulate the use of antibiotics would need to address how humans regularly abuse the drugs.

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