antibiotic resistance and food

Tough-to-Kill Germs Found in Chicken and Hog Farms

Drug-resistant germs are turning up on our farms, and maybe in your food.

Tough-to-Kill Germs Found in Chicken and Hog Farms

Big chicken farms may be growing antibiotic-resistant bacteria along with poultry.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Flies can do more than annoy you at a summer picnic. A new study in press at the journal Science and the Total Environment has revealed that they can carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria, increasing our exposure to germs that are hard to kill.

THE DETAILS: Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health set up traps to collect flies near 8 poultry farms and then collected samples of poultry litter (a mix of manure and bedding materials) from 3 large-scale, conventional poultry operations in that same area. Both the poultry litter and the flies were found to harbor antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria—“superbugs” that don’t respond to medicines commonly used to treat them. This isn’t the first study linking large-scale farms, often referred to as CAFOs, or "concentrated animal feeding operations," to drug-resistant bacteria. A small study of 20 Iowa hog farms, published in February in the online journal PLoS One, found that nearly 50 percent of the animals carried methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. That study is in line with others from Canada and Europe that have found similar relationships between MRSA in hog farmers and their animals. MRSA, one of the most widely publicized forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, can cause a severe skin infection that does not respond to standard antibiotics and can be fatal.

WHAT IT MEANS: If our farms are harboring MRSA and other medicine-resisting germs, it’s a threat to all of us. There’s potential for the microbes to spread to people who don’t live within a fly’s distance of a poultry farm, or anywhere near a hog farm, says Hopkins study coauthor Ellen Silbergeld, PhD, professor of environmental health sciences and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. In fact, a recent Johns Hopkins study found that cars traveling behind poultry-transport trucks were contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria. “This study points to a general breakdown in food safety and oversight of how we grow, produce, ship, and store food that humans consume,” says Silbergeld. Finding the bacteria in flies may be a particularly ominous sign, says Stuart Levy, MD, professor of medicine at Tufts University and author of The Antibiotic Paradox: How the Misuse of Antibiotics Destroys Their Curative Powers. “This just indicates that you have no control over where bacteria will go, ” he says. Fortunately, there’s no evidence of flies directly transmitting resistant bacteria to humans, though research by Dr. Levy and others has found flies to be important vectors for transmitting bacteria between farms.

Here are a few ways to minimize your exposure to antibacterial-resistant germs, and help eliminate them:


Published on: March 27, 2009

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If things keep going like

If things keep going like this we will reach a point when nothing will be able to kill these bacterias. They are living organisms and they will fight for survival evolving while we run out of efficient antibiotics to fight them back. What's worse is that antibiotics kill good germs within our body too, leaving us vulnerable against diseases such as candida. I am sure most of those who have gone through an antibiotics treatment had experienced candida infection symptoms shortly afterward, so you should know what I am talking about. Feeding animals with antibiotics makes it more difficult for us to stay away from them, the drugs enter our body on a daily basis and without our consent.

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