Antibiotic Resistance – The Growing Public Health Threat

Date: January 30, 2008

Rayburn House Office Building
Room 2168

Washington, DC 20515


Recent headlines about the so-called killer bug (MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and the difficulty of treating it with traditional antibiotics are raising alarms about the problem of the increasing number of resistant bacterial infections. Simply put, former miracle drugs like penicillin are becoming ineffective because of antibiotic overuse. As Dr. Ronald Davis, president of the American Medical Association recently put it, “…resistant bacterial infections have become a growing problem that cannot be ignored,” reflecting the view of an increasing number of health care professionals around the world.  Accompanying this opinion is a growing recognition that the extensive use of antibiotics in industrial farm animal production is a major factor in the problem.

A January 20th article in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that “Entire classes of mainstay antibiotics are being threatened with obsolescence, and bugs far more dangerous than staph are evolving in ominous ways.” Dr. Chip Chambers, chief of infectious disease at San Francisco General Hospital told the Chronicle “We are on the verge of losing control of the situation, particularly in the hospitals."

What is the connection between this mounting public health threat and large-scale animal agriculture?

Please join the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production for a congressional briefing to discuss this emerging and important topic.


Antibiotic resistance and its connection to animal agriculture

  • What is “antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance,” and how has it developed into a major public health threat;
  • Why farm animals are given an estimated 24.6 million pounds  (8 times more than humans) of antibiotics and other antimicrobials annually;
  • What commonly known antibiotics and antimicrobials are becoming ineffective;
  • How resistant bacteria can transfer their resistant genetic material to other bacteria.


Wednesday, January 30, 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.


Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2168


Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, Vice-Chair, Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, President & CEO Blackwell Consulting, LLC,  former Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine Univ. of Tennessee, Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS (Ret.), and former Chief of Staff, Office of the U.S. Surgeon General

Mary Wilson, M.D., Associate Professor, Department of Population and International Health, Harvard School of Public Health; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Leading infectious diseases expert

The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production is a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Antimicrobial resistance is one aspect of the independent Commission’s two-year examination of the ways industrial farm animal production can affect public health, the environment, rural communities and animal welfare. The upcoming briefing is the first of a series to be held over the next few months on industrial farm animal production issues. On April 29, 2008, the Commission will issue a comprehensive report of its findings, including practical recommendations that will be made available for policymakers, industry stakeholders and the general public. To learn more about the Commission and the issues it has studied for two years please visit

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