Sunday, 27 February 2011

Agricultural use of antibiotics and the problem of resistance.

An extract from Maryn McKenna’s interview with Time Magazine this week covers an unpalatable subject for intensive livestock farming and the government veterinarians that control such activities in Britain.

The case is strongly and clearly presented.

Veterinarians, not least in Britain, will be called to account for recklessly spreading and covering-up the animal epidemics that are costing many human lives.

Nobody is allowed to make money from causing and covering up human misery.

Veterinarians individually, and collectively, will be forced to justify their selfish actions over the past few years.

Money made from wildly prescribing vast quantities of antibiotics to livestock will be blocked and claims for damages to humans will take more.

Veterinarians, those continued to be allowed to practice, will have their rights to prescribe antibiotics curtailed by international agreement and the EU is planning to stop those vets, including the British, from profiting from any allowable prescription by the EU.

The full transcript of the interview may be read here

How does agricultural use of antibiotics affect the problem of resistance?

While people talk about agriculture and sustainability and local food, they often don't realize that it's antibiotics that created confinement agriculture [in which farm animals are raised in close quarters]. Without antibiotic use, confinement agriculture would go away overnight because you couldn't keep the animals alive. [That is, disease would rapidly spread and kill them.] It's the player behind the curtain.

Of all the antibiotics sold every year, 80% go to agricultural use. That's 29 million pounds of antibiotics a year. The science is not challenged anymore: the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture is the driver of an international epidemic of drug resistance.

When you use antibiotics [this way], they don't stay on the farm. They leave the farm in the systems of animals and leave the animals in manure. [Modern agriculture] generates a lot of manure. Those big lagoons are enormous petri dishes for the breeding of resistant organisms.

[And the bacteria] leave in groundwater, in the dust in the wind, on the feet of insects and in farm workers themselves. It's an occupational issue because farm workers come down with resistant infections. If we seriously want to dial back the international epidemic of resistance, we really have to look at how antibiotics are used in agriculture.

Is there any effort underway to change the system? It seems obvious that it could endanger human health.

At the very least, we ought to be setting up better surveillance. The reason that we don't get movement is because this is now a fight happening in the economic and political spheres. There is very significant opposition to touching agricultural antibiotic use both from very big producers and frankly from the pharmaceutical industry because the veterinary market is enormous.

A piece of legislation has been introduced for the last several Congresses. It will soon be introduced in the new Congress. It's called PAMTA, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. Rep. Louise Slaughter is the author. She is Congress's only microbiologist. It calls to remove or reduce agricultural use of seven classes of antibiotics. If we use those drugs in agriculture and resistance develops there, because it moves with incredible speed, that means we are making them ineffective for humans and we don't have a lot of drugs left.

Once a really complex system gets going, it's really hard to change. Agriculture is a big complex system with a lot of money involved…

Thursday, 24 February 2011

USA moves on antibiotic resistance in livestock

Two interlinked pieces from Maryn McKenna today. The biggest scandal of the 21st century is now heading quickly towards its denouement.

Britain’s corrupt government vets remain in total denial: the subject sat on, data missing or faked, whistle-blowers intimidated and research zero.

We would be better off with a gang of witchdoctors. We will probably have to learn to cope without veterinarians. Without antibiotics, they have little to offer.

A once proud and respected profession has been dragged down through self-regulation that failed to regulate.

Both reports can be found here

Running out of antibiotics — and other drugs too

By Maryn McKenna February 23, 2011 11:29 am

…Last night, the Journal of the American Medical Association posted ahead of print an editorial by Dr. James Hughes, former director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the CDC and now a professor of medicine and global health at Emory University. It’s a blunt and eloquent plea for attention to a problem that many people haven’t yet faced up to: We’re running out of antibiotics.

Antimicrobial agents have saved millions of lives and improved the outcomes for countless patients since these drugs were introduced in the early 1930s. However, the effectiveness of these lifesaving resources is at risk. Many medical advances that physicians and patients take for granted—including cancer treatment, surgery, transplantation, and neonatal care—are endangered by increasing antibiotic resistance and a distressing decline in the antibiotic research and development pipeline. (JAMA Hughes)

News break: Slaughter will reintroduce PAMTA (and cites data from this blog)

By Maryn McKenna February 23, 2011 5:01 pm

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Congress’s only microbiologist, said late today that she plans shortly to reintroduce PAMTA, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, a timely move given the collapsing antibiotic market (see this morning’s post) and continuing reports of resistance moving off farms (as in this post).

PAMTA would direct the FDA to re-examine its approvals of veterinary antibiotics that are close analogs of ones used in humans, because they can stimulate the development of resistant organisms. When those organisms move off the farm, as research shows they do, they then cause illnesses that cannot be treated by the functionally identical human drugs…

Monday, 21 February 2011

Chickens are risk to human health

This report, taken in tandem with the recent news from the USA about the range of antibiotic resistance in Canadian and US chicken on the supermarket shelves - see Maryn McKenna’s blog here, is pretty important.

The publisher is Reed, ( as is “Farmers Weekly” and “Pig Progress” ) so it is mainstream.

As you can see for pretty much the first time VETS ARE BLAMED, and for the right reasons – they in turn blame the farmers.

This is all pretty inevitable and predictable, but nothing to exonerate the vets. They wrote the script and made money from doing so: they carry the can.

Perhaps they will learn something real business people have known for generations: you have to stand behind your signature.

Blaming others is no excuse against your signature on a signed document yielding you a profit. Veterinarians are supposed to be educated, in Britain usually at the taxpayer’s expense.

British vets, not least government vets, have been signing anything that suits their interests to the exclusion of the truth, farming interest or the interests of public health.

That now has to stop and those doing it have to be investigated, prosecuted where appropriate, and removed.

Blaming the farmer won’t wash in court, every business comes under pressure from customers to do things they should not. You simply say “no.”

Antibiotic resistance in humans is getting worse. Veterinarians everywhere have to be stopped from irresponsible prescribing.

Full reprort from All About Feed, here

“Chickens are risk to human health”

21 Feb 2011

New evidence from Dutch research indicates that eating chicken can cause resistance to antibiotics in human.

Patient suffering from serious urinal or bloodstream infections - caused by so-called ESBL-bacteria or ‘superbugs’ - cannot be cured with the most important antibiotics.

In one in five patients these ESBL-bacteria are genetically identical to the antibiotic resistance bacteria that have been found in chicken.

The findings suggest that the affected patients obtained the bacteria direct or indirectly from chicken. The research was published in the scientific journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

All chicken infected

Nearly all chicken in Dutch supermarkets and at poultry farms are infected with ESBL-bacteria...

...The scientists say that their findings not conclusively prove that chicken meat is the source of the infection, but it is a strong lead. Epidemical observations, however, show that in the past years antibiotic resistance in humans and in chicken increases proportionally...

...Roel Coutinho, director of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, says the connection now is well demonstrated...

... use of antibiotics in the poultry sector must be strongly reduced,” he said...

...Veterinarians have an interest in prescribing antibiotics, because they are also pharmacists. Vets, however, claim that they are pressured by farmers to prescribe antibiotics. If they don’t the farmer hires another veterinarian who is more willingly...

Friday, 18 February 2011

The real story - Britain's Foot and Mouth Epidemic

It's ten years since Britain officially acknowledged a disastrous Foot and Mouth epidemic (FMD)

The first words of this new article in the "Pig Journal" tell it all.

These explain that circovirus renders infected pigs liable to other viruses and bacteria and, by extension, explains the massive use of antibiotics and the creation of antibiotic resistant disease now spreading to humans.

It also explains why British pigs in 2000 were so vulnerable to CSF and FMD. That did not take science, just common sense.

The writer took much abuse from farming organisations and veterinarians for saying just this.

They were quite determined to silence the writer and used criminal means: means that may still put the perpetrators behind bars.

The writer stuck to the letter of the law and followed all the correct procedures for complaining about government vets faking tests and documents and also attempting to intimidate witnesses to Parliament.

The world never knew that the pigs that caught Classified Swine Fever (CSF) and FMD were already sick with circovirus.

But the veterinarians did and have continued to pump antibiotics into the animals for the past decade despite the risks to human health.

The full report published yesterday can be found here

Pig Journal Volume: 64

Publication date: February 2011

Exposure to Porcine Circovirus type 2 (PCV2) occurs very early in the life of a pig and may compromise the pig’s ability to respond to infectious agents (viral and bacterial) when exposed to PCV2 without the presence of protective maternally derived immunity.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Unsafe practices by industrial swine operations

A local newspaper from Wilmington North Carolina details a mini-revolt over the human health risks from CAFOs. That’s big pig country.

Water pollution may yet be the issue that tips intensive pig farming into the national news in Britain and forces the pace of veterinary reform.

In small islands with slow flowing rivers and an 'easy to contaminate' water table, that is even bigger dynamite than in North Carolina

You can see why Defra’s tactics are now to be prepared to tolerate an uproar about animal welfare issues.

It’s the least of two evils for them and may draw attention away from the human health risks of their rural regime.

Pity we can’t load Defra’s vets onto a plane and send them to Saudi. Alas the Saudis would not have them.

The writers first ever meeting with Maff-Defra, long ago, 25 years, was them arriving at his door when a pig farm upstream had contaminated the river.

They were searching for the culprits. Nothing changes until we have a human disaster.

Change will come: ruthless, bitter and too late.

Extracts below and the whole article can be reached here

Unsafe practices by industrial swine operations

By Rick Dove
For the StarNews
Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.

If you have been keeping up to date on the health consequences related to industrial swine and poultry production in North Carolina, there are some new findings that should significantly raise your level of concern...

...Now, researchers are reporting that cockroaches and flies found on industrial swine farms are carriers of drug-resistant bacteria found in the feces of these animals. Some of these bacteria were resistant to combinations of antibiotics, making them multi-drug resistant. As these flies and roaches move from factory farms into our communities, these drug resistant bacteria can be transferred to us.

Is this the only threat we face? Not by a long shot. One drug resistant bacteria, Methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has already moved into our homes right from the supermarket shelves. MRSA has been showing up in random samples of raw pork sold in supermarkets.

How dangerous is MRSA? Hospitals in 2005 treated more than 278,000 cases of MRSA. Approximately 100,000 people faced life threatening illness. Of those, 18,650 died. This evolving superbug also emerged from the overuse of antibiotics. Animal agriculture accounts for approximately 70% of all antibiotics used in our country. In a recent outbreak of salmonella-tainted eggs, the eggs were pulled off the supermarket shelves. That has not been the case where MRSA has been found in pork and poultry.

How big is the overall problem? It’s huge!...

...Locally, many who have been watching this potential health threat emerge have tried to get government officials in our state to respond. On July 6, 2009, four North Carolina coastal Riverkeepers, along with 29 other knowledgeable individuals, petitioned Gov. Beverly Perdue to convene a Governor’s Task Force on Public Health Issues Associated with the Swine Industry. Representatives of the group requested a meeting with the Governor. She refused to meet and took no action on their request.

What’s the bottom line?

It’s time to end the practice of using lagoons and sprayfields to dispose of raw animal waste and the overuse of antibiotics, especially on factory farms, is now.

There is no choice.

MRSA st398 in humans comes from animal contact

Interesting material: better for people maybe, but bad for pigs, calves (and vets)?

Extending the logic a little, the constant stream of pig people including veterinarians and farm assurance personnel through farms is a pretty obvious route of MRSA spread from farm to farm.

Britain's government vets are very keen to emphasis that people can give MRSA to animals. Nobody is arguing.

They also argue, with less credibility, that Britain's livestock does not have MRSA st398, despite it being found in Scottish children in hospital some years ago.

People had to get it from somewhere first, and those giving it to animals are normally in contact with animals, that is self evident.

They are picking it up from animals and passing it on to the next farm on their route. That fact makes the failure of Britain's vets to own up to MRSA in livestock, especially pigs, both understandable and ridiculous.

These government vets, collectively, have a long record of gross incompetence: that apparently does extend to shooting themselves in both feet and personally spreading disease from farm to farm.

"...The presence of LA-MRSA in farmers is strongly animal-exposure related. The rapidly decreasing MRSA prevalence during absence of animal contact suggests that LA-MRSA is a poor persistent colonizer in most humans. These results are of relevance for MRSA control strategies."

The full report is available here

Persistence of Livestock Associated MRSA CC398 in Humans Is Dependent on Intensity of Animal Contact

The presence of Livestock Associated MRSA (LA-MRSA) in humans is associated with intensity of animal contact. It is unknown whether the presence of LA-MRSA is a result of carriage or retention of MRSA-contaminated dust...

...Mean MRSA prevalence was 38% in farmers and 16% in family members. Presence of MRSA in farmers was strongly related to duration of animal contact and was strongly reduced in periods with absence of animal contact (?58%). Family members, especially children, were more often carriers when the farmer was a carrier...

...The presence of LA-MRSA in farmers is strongly animal-exposure related. The rapidly decreasing MRSA prevalence during absence of animal contact suggests that LA-MRSA is a poor persistent colonizer in most humans. These results are of relevance for MRSA control strategies.