Thursday, March 12, 2009

Worrying signs: passing antibiotic-resistant germs between people and animals

Nicholas Kristof had a piece in the New York Times today about a cluster of methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) cases in a small farming town in Indiana. The town is surrounded by pig farms, and it looks like people and pigs are passing the germ back and forth.

It's not a new story, though. The Boston Globe reported on the problem a year and a half ago. It's been observed in Europe for even longer.

And earlier this week there was a report of MRSA being passed between an elephant and staff at the San Diego Zoo.

All of this is worrisome for a number of reasons. We feed farm animals a lot of antibiotics, both to keep them from getting sick due to overcrowding and also in low doses as growth factors. That's a practice that is perfectly designed to breed antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. And those strains can be spread to farm workers and possibly to consumers.

It's also worrisome because a number of big killers have made the leap from being animal diseases to becoming human diseases. Think HIV which originated in monkeys.

All the more reason to reform our farm practices, something that Congress is looking at... though they've got a tough job in front of them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen The Meatrix?

It's about this topic.

From Bio Jen

3:12 PM  

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