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Animal Ag Group Wants to Talk Antibiotic Resistance

In both 2011 and 2012, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture held symposia on antibiotic use in food animals that may have calmed the industry but did little to dial back the movement to strictly regulate animal drug use.

For 2013, they are taking a new tack by inviting their critics to join them in Kansas City, MO, from Nov. 12 to 14 for the third symposium entitled, “Bridging the Gap Between Animal Health and Human Health.”

And they’ve even brought in a bit of an outsider as symposium moderator – Dr. Richard Raymond, former USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Nebraska’s former chief medical officer. The country doctor who became one of the nation’s top food-safety officials is on record trying to point the antibiotic debate to those drugs used by both humans and animals.

While it is often reported that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in animal agriculture, “Doc” Raymond argues that statistics like that are silly because weighing drugs by the pound taken by humans and animals really means you are comparing the needs of a 2,500-pound bull with pneumonia to a newborn baby with the same problem. He says he wants to get down to specifics and deal with the complexity of antibiotic resistance.

The human health threat of antibiotic resistance received major attention last month when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report on the specific threats of 18 resistant microorganisms.

CDC estimates that 2 million human illnesses result annually from antibiotic-resistant infections. Separately, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) figures that about 22 percent of that number is associated with foodborne illnesses.

In the report, CDC supports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) voluntary guidelines calling for the phasing out of antibiotics in animal growth. Consumer groups such as CSPI want FDA and USDA to instruct veterinarians specifically on how to control pathogens in the food supply.

The 13-year old NIAA brings producers, veterinarians and scientists from government and industry together to work on solutions to challenges to animal agriculture. Raymond told Food Safety News it’s important that others with concerns about antibiotic resistance are welcomed to the Kansas City symposium.

Registration for the event, being held at the Kansas City Airport Marriott, is now open at the NIAA website.

© Food Safety News
  • doc raymond

    And of that questionable 80% number, 82% of the antibiotics used in animals are either not approved for use in humans, or are very rarely used in human medicine as a very poor second or third choice drug for very limited illnesses like Bubonic Plague and Lyme Disease.

  • kenrubenstein

    The problem turns out to be a little more complicated than the way the association wishes to frame it. For example, antibiotics that are not used in humans still place stress on surviving organisms and trigger known mechanisms that increase their resistance to antibiotics that humans do use.

    • doc raymond

      Really. please share your scientific basis for this statement.

      • kenrubenstein

        I’ve been reading bunches of papers on the subject for a report I will publish, but I’m too busy right now to sort through my database and find the support you require. It’s there if you wish to find it. Try PubMed.

      • Michael Bulger

        Raymond, it’s a very basic microbiological concept.

        It’s commonly referred to as class-resistance. Antibiotics used in animal agriculture works against pathogens in a number of unique ways. Some work by attacking the cell walls, others work by inhibiting pathogen protein synthesis, and so on. If a pathogen gains resistance to the way one antibiotic works, then it can also be resistant to other antibiotics that work in similar ways. In that way, misuse of one antibiotic can result in resistance to multiple antibiotics.

        You might also wish to read up on how bacteria can pass resistance traits to one another.