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    Ronald McDonald for Surgeon General

    Stepping up the fight against antibiotic-fed animals

     

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD

    Once again, it was a chilly winter in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of our fair land. And once again, I ask myself why all ophthalmologists haven’t moved to Southern California or southern Florida (as opposed to only 95% of them).

    As I write this, two of my family members are on antibiotics for sinusitis and other sequelae from the waning cold and flu season. Within 24 hours of starting their medicines, their symptoms were noticeably improved. Fortunately, no resistant organisms here.

    Related: Admit it, you don't know everything

    Antibiotic-resistant “super bugs,” however, are frequently mentioned in the lay press. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that at least 2 million people become infected each year in the United States, and at least 23,000 die as the direct result of these infections. Many more die from other conditions complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.1 Although other countries have the same problem, the magnitude is substantially greater in the United States.

    Antibiotic resistance may relate to overuse of antibiotics by physicians in patients with viral illnesses. The major culprit is thought by many to be use of these drugs in farming. Staggering amounts are used not as treatment of infected animals, but as prophylaxis in feed and drinking water to encourage faster growth of larger animals.

    For every antibiotic prescription written for a human being in our country, the rough equivalent of a dump truck full of antimicrobials is being used on our farms. In most other countries of the world, antibiotic usage in healthy animals is either discouraged and limited or specifically banned. Many experts cite this as the key reason why patients in those nations experience fewer infections with super bugs.

    Next: Ban on antibiotic-fed chickens

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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