Dangerous Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Transmitted From Animals to Humans

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including the deadly MRSA, are growing in part as a result of the overuse of antibiotics in food animals.
A press release from Rep. Louise M. Slaughter
July 5, 2013
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Every new study that confirms the public health threat from antibiotic overuse in American livestock makes the FDA’s hands-off approach more indefensible.
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A press release from Rep. Louise M. Slaughter.

Two days before families across America will be hosting and attending barbeques to celebrate Independence Day, a new study regarding antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock should give Americans pause before firing up the grill. Researchers found antibiotic-resistant bacteria known to cause deadly infections in the noses of livestock workers in North Carolina who work with food animals that are routinely fed antibiotics, but not in the noses of livestock workers who handle animals raised without antibiotics. The antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in the noses of workers were Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as “Staph,” and included the bug MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA currently kills 18,500 Americans every year – more than HIV/AIDS.

This new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, the George Washington University, and the Statens Serum Institute follows a groundbreaking March 2013 study that confirmed animal-to-human transmission of MRSA. A press release from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health also reports, “In the United States, such strains have been detected among industrial livestock operation workers in Iowa and now North Carolina, making scientists concerned that these bacteria could follow a similar trajectory into the community.”

“As families across America fire up the grill to celebrate Independence Day, this new study should give us all great alarm,” Rep. Slaughter said. “Not only are we frittering away one of the greatest medical miracles of all time – the antibiotic – but we are failing in our basic duty of protecting the health and lives of Americans. Every new study that confirms the public health threat from antibiotic overuse in American livestock makes the FDA’s hands-off approach more indefensible. If the FDA won’t protect Americans, then Congress has to step up to the plate by passing my bill to stop the overuse of antibiotics in food-animals.”

Slaughter is the author of the HR 1150, the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act” (PAMTA).  The legislation is designed to stop the overuse of antibiotics on the farm - a practice that is accelerating the growth of antibiotic-resistant disease.

Currently, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for agricultural use. Most often, these antibiotics are distributed at sub-therapeutic levels to healthy animals as a way to compensate for crowded and unsanitary living conditions or to promote growth. Any effort to stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria must address the overuse of antibiotics in food-animals.

PAMTA is supported by 450 organizations, including public health organizations, scientists, the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and small farmers across the United States.

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