Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Antibiotic resistance, a ticking bomb of industrial animal keeping.

I am hardly surprised that a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrate that poultry farmers who adopt organic practices and stop giving their birds antibiotics significantly reduce the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics in their flocks.  Amy Sapkota of the University of Maryland School of Public Health and colleagues studied 10 conventional farms and 10 farms that had recently become organic in 2008. They tested for the presence of a bacteria known as enterococci in poultry litter, feed and water and for whether the organisms were resistant to 17 commonly used drugs.
All the farms tested positive for the bacteria. But the farms that had recently become organic had significantly lower levels of resistance. For example, 67 percent of enterococcus faecalis from conventional farms were resistant to the drug erythromycin compared to 18 percent of the organisms from the organic farms. Forty-two percent of the bacteria from conventional farms were resistant to multiple drugs, compared to only 10 percent from the organic farms (this according to a good summary in the Washington Post).

One wonder if conventional animal production should not be classified as an act of bio-terrorism.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
A bioterrorism attack is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, toxins or other harmful agents used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants.

I have argued persistently that the use of antibiotics in animal keeping is one of the major reasons for the development of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. First time I raised it was more than ten years ago. Since then, antibiotic resistance has become a widely acknowledged problem, even the subject of an EU-US summit, resulting in a transatlantic task force.

In Garden Earth I write

The development of antibiotics revolutionised the treatments of infections; thanks to antibiotics, disease caused by bacteria could to a very large extent be treated and cured, cheaply and effectively. This opportunity is now threatened by increased resistance to antibiotics by bacteria. Every year, 25,000 people in the EU are hit by multi-resistant bacteria. Only the health care costs for them are in the range of 1.5 billion Euro (SvD 2009b). There are already some bacteria that are resistant to all know antibiotics. Many of the antibiotics used for animals are badly absorbed by the animals and go through them. Via manure and urine they are spread in the environment. A study of US Geological Survey found antibiotic residues in half of the surveyed waterways. Off the coast of Norway there is 200 ton of chinolones in sediments originating from fish-farming, These antibiotics are not readily biodegradable and will stay for years (Apoteket 2005). The carpet of antibiotics that we roll out in our environment, purposely, like for own medication and medication of animals, and inadvertently, as in the drinking water is most certainly a reason for the increased resistance of some bacteria to antibiotics, a resistance that threatens to nullify the gains of one the most important medicine ever found

The Strama web site has an excellent list of links regarding antibiotic resistance for those who want to read more.

Old post from March

Friday, March 25, 2011

Less Salmonella in Organic Chicken

We are always scared with that organic is less safe. The argument goes that because organic farmers don't use pesticides, parasiticides, fungicides or antibiotics, organic crops or animals will be a risk for health. I always thought that it is nonsense, but it is hard to convince folks just from your gut feeling. But again and again you find evidence that organic is even safer. The latest survey of that kind says:The results of our study suggest that within this poultry company, the prevalence of fecal Salmonella was lower in certified-organic birds than in conventionally raised birds, and the prevalence of antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella was also higher in conventionally raised birds than in certified-organic birds.

What is perhaps more alarming is that 39.7 percent of the salmonella found in the conventional birds had resistance to no fewer than six different antibiotics. None of the salmonella from the organic birds showed antibiotic resistance.
read more

Also there is a nice blogpost on this at grist

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