You do not have to always agree with Marion Nestle to admire her skills as a communicator. One tactic she has used lately is to lay out a few facts with some questions to get her many readers thinking and commenting. And I’m not above stealing a good idea. Class, the topic I’d like you to address this week is antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is the ability of a microorganism to withstand the effects of an antibiotic. Antibiotics are integral in the treatment of many foodborne diseases, making this an important issue for the food safety community. According to the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA): -Antimicrobial resistance is recognized as one of the greatest threats to human health worldwide. -Drug-resistant infections take a staggering toll in the United States and across the globe. Just one organism, methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), kills more Americans every year than emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and homicide combined. -Nearly 2 million Americans per year develop hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), resulting in 99,000 deaths – the vast majority of which are due to antibacterial-resistant pathogens. -Two common HAIs alone (sepsis and pneumonia) killed nearly 50,000 Americans and cost the U.S. health care system more than $8 billion in 2006. -Based on studies of the costs of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens versus antibiotic-susceptible pathogens, the cost to the U.S. health care system of antibiotic resistant infections is $21 billion to $34 billion each year and more than 8 million additional hospital days. -Antibiotics are becoming less and less effective, in part due to over-prescription and inappropriate use. -New antibiotic development has slowed to a standstill due to market failure and regulatory disincentives. If I am reading scientists correctly, there are multiple theories for antibiotic resistance and agreement that some occurs naturally in the environment. Some of these theories involve antibiotic uses by both humans and animals. Yet, is it just me, or is antibiotics used in animal agriculture the only thing we hear about when antibiotic resistance comes up? Last week we had ten U.S. Senators demanding that more antibiotic sales data be extracted from agricultural businesses and then patting themselves on the back for their less than profound suggestions being the “beginning of the process of addressing the issue of antibiotic resistance.” Now I know all ten are egotistical blowhards, but if collecting more data about agricultural uses of antibiotics is the “beginning,” then we are in trouble. Am I wrong to look at antibiotic resistance as a big circle with animal issues maybe involving a 25 percent slice with lots of other unknowns out there? Who’s articulating an overall scientifically-based strategy? People are drying in hospitals every day over antibiotic resistance, shouldn’t somebody be taking this seriously? Also color me suspicious, but when U.S. Senators are questioning the use of “disease prevention” treatment for sick farm animals, might there not be some other agendas at work here? (Okay, that was more of a statement.) I just have this feeling that allowing animal diseases to go untreated would not contribute to food safety. Antibiotic resistance is complex issue. Help direct our coverage by suggesting people we should talk to and places we should go. Where’s the cutting edge research being done? This is not just some problem on the farm we haven’t solved. It’s bigger, broader, and more complex. Now, please submit your answers.