Antibiotics Being Used to Excess in Farm Animals

July 28, 2009
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Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, deputy FDA commissioner, testified before the House Rules Committee that feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals should stop. The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that as much as 70% of the antibiotics used in the US are given to healthy farm animals. They are traditionally used to encourage growth or prevent illness in farm-lot environments.

According to Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease physician and member of the Healthy Memphis Common Table Council, the measure to limit the use of antibiotics in healthy animals is likely to fail because of the powerful farm lobby. In Dr. Jain’s personal experience as well as in the scientific literature, “The prescribing of too many antibiotics leads to super-resistant bugs in the body, in hospitals, and possibly even in our environment.” According to Dr. Jain, antibiotics are linked to serious side effects, including skin rashes, diarrhea, alteration in thinking, and loss of hearing.

Dr. Stuart Levy, director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance, and professor of molecular biology, microbiology, and medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, agrees that antibiotics are overused and even abused in both human and veterinary medicine. He says that antibacterial agents and antibiotics share the same resistance problem, something the makers of antibacterial sprays don’t want you to know. After all, if you have a product that “kills more than 99.9% of illness causing bacteria and viruses on environmental surfaces in your home,” that means 0.1% of them are both stronger than the other bugs, and they’re the ones left behind to replicate at a shocking rate of speed. That is precisely how super-viruses are made—they have no competition from much less harmful viruses or bacteria, so they’re the ones that rule the roost. Dr. Levy also warns the antibacterial craze has another potential consequence: Studies reveal an increased frequency of allergies and cases of asthma and eczema in persons who have been raised in an environment overly protected against microorganisms.

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