Antibiotics: The White House Investigates Overuse

Antibiotics: The White House Investigates Overuse

The CDC estimates that the drug-resistant bacteria caused by antibiotics is responsible for two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths in the United States alone

On June 2, 2015, the White House will hold a forum to discuss the overuse of antibiotics in modern farming. They want to be able to reassure the public that antibiotics will be used responsibly and that continued overuse will be avoided. The forum will have participants from 150 different companies, including food manufacturers, retailers, drug makers, farmers, and medical societies. [1]

“If we lose antibiotics, the medicine chest will be empty and it will not only undermine our ability to treat routine infections, but it will undermine much of modern medicine,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “We risk turning back the clock to a world where simple infections can be fatal just as they were a century ago.” [1]

An animal scientist from University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed an alternative method to protect animals from common infections. A method which is antibiotic-free. [2]

“You really can’t control the bugs forever; they will always evolve a way to defeat your drugs,” says Mark Cook, professor of animal science. [2]

Cook’s work focuses on the immune off-switch, called Interleukin 10 or IL-10. He believes many pathogens defeat the immune system during infection. So he used the eggs of hens to help neutralize the IL-10 off switch. This involved utilising antibodies which are found in the eggs. Then spraying the antibodies onto the feed which allows the animals a more natural defence to disease. [2]

Tests with animals shows promise. Instead of treating the disease, they are able to naturally fight it off  

Raising animals in appropriate living conditions improves animals immune systems. Good husbandry reduces infections according to a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University. Factory farms that use antibiotics in the feed are not actually saving money. The study found that growth promoting antibiotics resulted in an average loss of .93 cents per chicken or about 45 percent. [3]

As the government and farm corporations are exploring options, maybe they will consider how raising meat in humane conditions improves the natural health of the animal. Many farmers today do not use antibiotics because they don’t have to compensate for raising their animals in unhealthy living conditions. Raising animals in clean environments with adequate space reduces the stress on the animal and reduces infections. On these farms, they only treat sick animals similar to treatment of human infections. [3]

Federal standards prohibit antibiotic use on certified organic meat. If animals are given antibiotics to treat illness, a specific amount of time must pass before its meat, milk, or eggs can be sold. [3]

It may be time for the government to consider raising animals appropriately and producing high quality organic meat for consumers to eat. The prices of meat may go up, but this also may encourage the public to have more meatless meals throughout the week

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