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Obama administration lags on farm drivers of antibiotic resistance

Microscopic image of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA)—and emerging superbug as antibiotic resistance increases in the United States.

Used under creative commons license from Microbe World
Antibiotics are waning in effectiveness, and as a result more and more Americans are getting sick and dying of hard-to-treat—and hugely expensive—infections. The names of these superbugs, like MRSA, are becoming known to all.
Driving resistance is the use of antibiotics. And last year, the FDA revealed that 80 percent of all U.S. antibiotics are used in agriculture, the vast majority as additives to animal feed for healthy animals. No feed antibiotics have ever been taken off the market, despite proposals to do so appearing as early as 1977.
Today, a new report by the non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) raises alarms about the inadequate government response. Its title says it all: Antibiotic Resistance: Agencies Have Made Limited Progress Addressing Antibiotic Use in Animals.
As the report makes clear, the problem is not simply one of the feed antibiotics continuing to be sold. It is also that federal agencies, like the FDA and USDA, have failed to put forth a clear plan to improve their collection of farm data about how antibiotics in agriculture are being used, or to research alternatives to the squandering of precious antibiotics in animal feed.
The GAO report comes on the heels of a national outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in ground turkey which killed one and injured dozens. Cargill, owner of the ground turkey plant, subsequently recalled more than 36 million pounds of ground turkey meat
In contrast, federal legislation has been introduced, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, that would phase out the use of select human antibiotics in animal feed, preventing much of the current misuse.


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