Americans eat less meat — Agribusiness still increases use of antibiotics on farms

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Despite recent efforts by health experts, doctors, and the Food and Drug Administration to pull the meat industry away from its heavy use of antimicrobials, livestock producers seem to have dug in their heels.

From 2009 to 2014, the amount of antimicrobials sold and distributed for use in livestock increased by 22 percent, according to an FDA report released Thursday. Of the antimicrobials sold in 2014, 62 percent were related to drugs used in human health, also called medically important. From 2009 to 2014, sale and distribution of medically important antimicrobials used on farms also jumped—an increase of 23 percent.

That brings the 2014 total of antimicrobials sold for US livestock to 15,358,210 kilograms, including 9,475,989 kilograms of medically important drugs, according to the report.

In 2013, researchers estimated that agriculture and aquaculture take in about 80 percent of all antibiotics…sold in the US.

The new data comes amid calls for responsible use of antimicrobials and antibiotics—in clinics as well as farms. Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics called on livestock producers to curb overuse of drugs on farms. Much of the tonnage of drugs go to illness prevention on factory farms rather than treatments for sick animals. And producers sometimes use the drugs because they help animals fatten up. Such overuse, the doctors argued, is fueling the development of antimicrobial resistance among microbes, which in turn can cause difficult-to-treat infections in people, particularly vulnerable children…

But the FDA’s guidelines appear to have had little to no impact so far. Sale of animal antimicrobials increased by four percent from 2013 to 2014, while use of medically important antimicrobials increased by three percent, according to the new report.

In a statement, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said, “This report demonstrates what I have been saying for years: that FDA’s policies have been toothless in the face of the continued, widespread misuse of life-saving antibiotics in factory farms…The increased use of antibiotics over the last year is particularly disgraceful.”

The Congresswoman, a microbiologist by training, called on the FDA to immediately prohibit the use of medically important antimicrobials on farms…

The Animal Health Institute, like their favorite employers in agribusiness, lied and denied on behalf of profiteers who are assured they can get away with stuffing just about anything that increases cheap fast weight in meat on the hoof. Or claw. Or fins.

Guaranteed to encourage the universe to look askance at the animal protein we consume, here’s the report from the FDA.

Hospital privacy curtains prove to be laden with germs

The privacy curtains that separate care spaces in hospitals and clinics are frequently contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria, researchers said in Chicago this week.

To avoid spreading those bugs, health care providers should make sure to wash their hands after routine contact with the curtains and before interacting with patients, Dr. Michael Ohl…said at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

“There is growing recognition that the hospital environment plays an important role in the transmission of infections in the health care setting and it’s clear that these (privacy curtains) are potentially important sites of contamination because they are frequently touched by patients and providers,” Dr. Ohl told Reuters Health.

Health care providers often touch these curtains after they have washed their hands and then proceed to touch the patient. Further, these curtains often hang for a long time and are difficult to disinfect…

Tests detected Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, including the especially dangerous methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), as well as various species of Enterococci — gut bacteria — some resistant to the newer antibiotic vancomycin.

The researchers used additional tests to identify specific vancomycin and methicillin-resistant strains to see whether the same strains were circulating and contaminating the curtains over and over.

The study found significant contamination that occurred very rapidly after new curtains were placed…

“The vast majority of curtains showed contamination with potentially significant bacteria within a week of first being hung, and many were hanging for longer than three or four weeks,” Dr. Ohl noted.

We need to think about strategies to reduce the potential transfer of bacteria from curtains to patients,” he added. “The most intuitive, common sense strategy is (for health care workers) to wash hands after pulling the curtain and before seeing the patient. There are other strategies, such as more frequent disinfecting, but this would involve more use of disinfectant chemicals, and then there is the possibility of using microbial resistant fabrics. But handwashing is by far the most practical, and the cheapest intervention.”

How about reinstating the traditional hospital laundry? That’s gone by the boards in many hospitals. Outsourcing to save money and keep the beancounters on the board of directors happy.

Hospitals are supposed to be about healthcare, right?