Antibiotic resistance has been blamed for at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the US. Researchers are especially concerned about the widespread use of antibiotics in raising cattle, pigs, and other animals for food production. The drugs help the animals bulk up, which boosts their value, but experts warn that they can also promote antibiotic resistance. I’ve asked two guest authors, Josh Bloom and Dr. David Shlaes of the American Council on Science and Health, to share their insights on this issue. They warn that more needs to be done to curb the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.
By Josh Bloom and Dr. David Shlaes
The recent discovery in China of a new gene found in bacteria in both pigs and humans should both infuriate and terrify the public health community. The gene is called mcr-1, and it is responsible for a new, specific type of bacterial antibiotic resistance — precisely the last thing that the world needs at a time when many antibiotics, which once easily cured infections, have stopped working.
Yet, it would be wrong to lay all of the blame on China since they are not alone in adding antibiotics to feed, a long-used practice, including in the US despite the considerable body of scientific evidence that tells us that this is a very bad idea. Adding antibiotics to animal feed makes the animals grow faster but the practice has also clearly paved the way for the formation of mcr-1.