Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Spread of Superbugs

Agribusiness is getting even more criticism. This time it's about the use of antibiotics. There has been talk for a while now about the overuse of antibiotics and the development of "superbugs", or antibiotic resistant bacteria. Concern is rising over the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. Nicholas D. Kristof, of The New York Times, offers his take on the situation:

Until three months ago, Thomas M. Dukes was a vigorous, healthy executive at a California plastics company. Then, over the course of a few days in December as he was planning his Christmas shopping, E. coli bacteria ravaged his body and tore his life apart.Mr. Dukes is a reminder that as long as we’re examining our health care system, we need to scrutinize more than insurance companies. We also need to curb the way modern agribusiness madly overuses antibiotics, leaving them ineffective for sick humans.

Antibacterial drugs were revolutionary when they were introduced in the United States in 1936, virtually eliminating diseases like tuberculosis here and making surgery and childbirth far safer. But now we’re seeing increasing numbers of superbugs that survive antibiotics. One of the best-known — MRSA, a kind of staph infection — kills about 18,000 Americans annually. That’s more than die of AIDS.

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