Drug-resistant "superbugs" have become an urgent public health concern, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Monday, echoing years of research by groups such as Food & Water Watch who warn that the overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms leads to drug-resistant infections.
According to the new CDC report, at least two million Americans now fall ill from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year and at least 23,000 subsequently die.
“For organism after organism, we’re seeing this steady increase in resistance rates,” the CDC’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, told Reuters in a telephone interview. “We don’t have new drugs about to come out of the pipeline. If and when we get new drugs, unless we do a better job of protecting them, we’ll lose those, also.”
As the CDC reports, the overuse of antibiotics on both humans and farm animals is the "most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world." CDC writes:
Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine. However, up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed. Antibiotics are also commonly used in food animals to prevent, control, and treat disease, and to promote the growth of food-producing animals.
This overuse allows the targeted bacteria to eventually build resistance to those drugs. When humans are exposed to those bacterias, antibiotics are less likely to combat infection. As the report states, “much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe."
"The use of antibiotics for promoting [farm animal] growth is not necessary, and the practice should be phased out," the report continues.
“This is scary stuff, and we want people to know about it,” said Dr. Steve Solomon, the director of the CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance.
"The link between sub-therapeutic use in food animals and antibiotic-resistance in humans is clear, and we must follow through on the Center’s recommendations to stop the misuse of antibiotics in farm animals," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, stated Monday following the release of the report.
"Right now, 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used for industrial agriculture, and most of these drugs are routinely fed to animals to make them grow faster and compensate for filthy conditions," said Hauter. "This is done to help the meat industry execute on its highly consolidated business model for profit. And the American public pays through antibiotic-resistant infections."
"This CDC report should be a wake-up call for our decision makers," she added. "For decades, the Food & Drug Administration has failed to regulate this industry’s use of antibiotics. That’s why Congress must now pass legislation (the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act in the House and the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act in the Senate) that would stop the abuse of medically important antibiotics on factory farms."