|Recent headlines about the so-called killer bug (MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and the difficulty of treating it with traditional antibiotics are raising alarms about the problem of the increasing number of resistant bacterial infections. Simply put, former miracle drugs like penicillin are becoming ineffective because of antibiotic overuse.
As Dr. Ronald Davis, president of the American Medical Association recently put it, "...resistant bacterial infections have become a growing problem that cannot be ignored," reflecting the view of an increasing number of health care professionals around the world. Accompanying this opinion is a growing recognition that the extensive use of antibiotics in industrial farm animal production is a major factor in the problem.
A January 20th article in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that "Entire classes of mainstay antibiotics are being threatened with obsolescence, and bugs far more dangerous than staph are evolving in ominous ways." Dr. Chip Chamber, chief of infectious disease at San Francisco General Hospital told the Chronicle, "We are on the verge of losing control of the situation, particularly in the hospitals."
A Congressional briefing convened by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and its use of antibiotics is scheduled to take place from 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008, in Room 2168 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Regarding antibiotic resistance and its connection to animal agriculture, the commission will discuss the following:
- What is "antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance," and how has it developed into a major public health threat
- Why farm animals are given an estimated 24.6 million pounds (8 times more than humans) of antibiotics and other antimicrobials annually
- What commonly known antibiotics and antimicrobials are becoming ineffective
- How resistant bacteria can transfer their resistant genetic material to other bacteria
Speakers for the event will be Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, vice-chair of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and Mary Wilson, M.D., associate professor of the Department of Population and International Health of the Harvard School of Public Health.