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Hartford, CT - Local doctors called upon the Obama Administration today to immediately restrict the use of antibiotics on factory farms when animals are not sick. The doctors are part of a nationwide coalition of more than 2,000 medical professionals working against the declining effectiveness of antibiotics due to overuse and misuse.
Antibiotics, a pillar of modern medicine are losing their effectiveness due to the emergence of ‘superbugs,’ bacteria that are resistant to one or more classes of drugs. A phenomenon fueled by untargeted and widespread use, experts point to the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms as a major contributor to the problem.
“Antibiotics are currently taken for granted, but we forget that without effective antibiotics minor infections won't be treated and can turn into serious infections, and serious infections kill people” said Dr. Nick Bennett, Medical Director for Infectious Diseases & Immunology and the Co-Director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
More than 70 percent of antibiotics in classes used in human medicine are sold for use in food animals, typically to increase the speed at which animals gain weight or to prevent disease caused by unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. This use fuels the creation of resistant bacteria that can spread off farms via food, animal to human contact, and animal waste that enters the environment.
“At Connecticut Children's, like many other hospitals, we're working hard to use antibiotics judiciously to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance so we can safely treat kids in the future. However, our efforts seem futile when you consider that 80% of antibiotics aren't even used to treat infections in people, but instead are used as growth promoters in animals,” added Dr Bennett.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took a small first step, by issuing guidelines for antibiotics use on farms. Unfortunately, the guidelines were voluntary and narrow in scope, and are unlikely to lead to significant reductions in antibiotic misuse on farms.
A growing body of experts in the United States and across the globe is calling for stronger action. The U.S. Centers for Disease control recently estimated that drug-resistant bacterial infections make 2 million people sick in the United States each year and cause 23,000 deaths. A recent World Health Organization report on the issue estimated resistant infections result in eight million additional days in hospitals, which costs between $21 and $34 billion each year in the United States alone.
The doctors spoke at an event with ConnPIRG Education Fund, which was releasing a new report entitled Ending the Abuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production: The Case for Reform.
“The science is clear - antibiotics shouldn’t be misused on animals that aren’t sick. The Obama administration needs to stop this practice immediately,” stated Sean Doyle, ConnPIRG Program Associate.
Victims at especially high risk include patients receiving cancer chemotherapy, complex surgeries, dialysis, and organ and bone marrow transplants. These patients are much more susceptible to bacterial infection, and treatment relies often on effective antibiotics to ensure recovery. A drug-resistant infection could mean more stress, illness, cost and sometimes death in these cases.
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