from Politics of the Plate
Posted by Barry on February 19, 2010
Along with their usual rations of grain and prepared feed, factory-farmed hogs and chickens in the United States also dine on a steady diet of antibiotics. The animals are given the drugs, not to prevent or cure illness, but simply because low-level doses of antibiotics stimulate them to grow faster than untreated animals. This may be good for agribusiness’s bottom lines, but an increasing body of research shows that it might be very bad for public health.
Several scientific examinations of pork and poultry operations in this country have shown that anti-microbial-resistant “superbugs” such as flesh-eating methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and certain tough-to-kill strains of E. coli are showing up, not only in farm animals, but in the humans who tend them—and even in members of their families who don’t work on the farms.
Now, a group of researchers at Boston University has discovered a mechanism that causes these superbugs to develop. It could mean that the problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria is even worse than previously imagined. Their results are reported in the current issue of the journal Molecular Cell.