Amid growing concerns that antibiotic resistance may lead to life-threatening complications, the FDA plans to halt antibiotic use in livestock in 2016. The agency hopes that the measure may stave off antibiotic-resistant infections in the U.S., which take the lives of 23,000 Americans every year.
Antibiotic-resistant infections are caused by superbugs, or bacteria immune to common antibiotics. This summer, the FDA urged farmers and ranchers to reduce antibiotic use in livestock to a certain threshold.
But on December 2016, the agency plans to ban for good from farms the use of antibiotics employed to treat common diseases in both animals and humans. Farmers use these drugs to promote faster growth and for other production purposes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that 2 million people in the U.S. acquire an antibiotic-resistant infection, while 23,000 patients die of complications every year.
Dr. Steve Solomon who had been working with the CDC on containing superbug infections recently said that the agency had been trying to solve the problem for decades, and deemed the issue ‘critical.’
Doctors know that prescribing antibiotics when there is no need can lead to mutations or superbugs. Because livestock is exposed to high amounts of antibiotics for various purposes the animals are most exposed to the infections. But these infections that antibiotics cannot treat can later spread to humans.
Humans acquire the infections through food and water, but also through soil and air when fertilization of crops is done with manure taken from sick animals. Past studies also found high amounts of superbugs in the meet sold by retailers in their stores. Three years ago, a salmonella infection which was very hard to treat was caused by ground beef sold in a local store.
Imagine what it would happen if Listeria and E.coli became immune to antibiotics during nationwide outbreaks. But there is a type of bacteria (CRE) which is already developing resistance to all known antibiotics. Doctors dubbed CRE ‘the nightmare bacteria.’
Since the discovery of penicillin, antibiotics were successful in curing infections which otherwise were deadly. In the late 1970s, the U.S. Surgeon General was so optimistic about antibiotics that he said that infectious diseases could be soon eradicated. But by that time, antibiotic resistance was already building up.
Scientists noticed that there was a growing problem with antibiotic overuse that was often overlooked in 1955. Sixty years later that problem grew into a real crisis. Dr. Solomon believes that the post antibiotic era may be as bad as the era before penicillin was discovered.
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