Antibiotic Resistance Warnings Remain Unheeded, Experts Say

Lynne Peeples | Huffington Post Green | October 9, 2014

...Just as incurable viruses gain new footholds around the world, a growing number of bacterial infections that were once easily treatable are now withstanding modern medicine's arsenal of antibiotics. Twenty-three thousand Americans die from antibiotic-resistant pathogens every year. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is among the most notorious. The number of adults hospitalized due to another culprit, a resistant strain of Clostridium difficile has nearly doubled over the last decade, according to a study published last week.

Largely to blame for this public health predicament, experts say, is the continued misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals. A case in point: The first person diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the U.S. was initially sent home with antibiotics. The drugs, of course, wield no power against viruses.

But it's their use in animals that has sparked the loudest debate. Despite warnings going back to penicillin-discoverer Alexander Fleming in the 1940s and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the 1970s, as well as successful efforts over the last decade in Denmark, the Netherlands and other European countries to curb the practice, livestock producers across the U.S. continue to routinely feed healthy animals small doses of antibiotics. Some of the antibiotics belong to the same classes of drugs used to treat people -- including key weapons in fighting urinary tract infections and infections after surgeries...