Superbugs Still a Major Threat

According to recent reports, the threat of drug-resistant superbugs in still an ongoing problem across the United States, with food activists, biologists, and immunologists blaming the agricultural use of antibiotics for the spread of these diseases.

A study released last April revealed several disturbing facts about American meat production. Almost half of meat samples from grocery stores across the country tested positive for Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacteria that is responsible for a wide variety of human illness, including potentially dangerous staph infections. More disturbing, however, was the fact that over half of the samples that tested positive for Staphylococcus aureus tested positive for a drug-resistant strain.

A similar study released last month seemed to confirm these initial finds. According to a report by David Wallinga, a senior adviser at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, drug-resistant microbes were found in about 65 percent of pork samples taken from supermarkets in New Jersey, Minnesota, and Iowa.

Some food activists and immunologists believe that the sudden spike in drug-resistant bugs could be caused by liberal use of antibiotics among some farmers. A vital tool to control and combat illnesses in livestock, some groups claim that farmers are overusing antibiotics in order to cut costs and encourage rapid growth. This overuse, they say, leads to the creation of drug-resistant illness that could lead to widespread human sickness.

While scientists were quick to point out that they had not concluded as to the long-term effect on consumers, many remain adamant that farm policy needs to change.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture drafted a “Guideline for Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food Producing Animals” in 2010, but has not released a final version.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer