Going Hog Wild: Weaning Antibiotic-Resistant Bugs Out Of Pork

Publication: The Huffington Post

Author: Lynne Peeples

02/11/2012 - After nearly succumbing to an antibiotic-resistant infection contracted from one of his hogs, Russ Kremer went cold turkey. He exterminated his diseased pigs and swore off the antibiotics he'd long-used to boost his herd's growth and prevent the illnesses so common in concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

Now, more than 20 years later, he says his farm is organic, sustainable, humane and still nearly as efficient as the typical industrial CAFO. Plus he's eliminated the $16,000 a year he used to spend on veterinary and drug bills. And he hasn't sacrificed his pigs' health in the process. If anything, the opposite is true for Fred, Barney, Wilma, Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm and the other 500-some pigs that roam his 150-acre farm.


Kremer's story exemplifies the findings of a growing number of scientific studies on the effects of antibiotic use in livestock. As HuffPost previously reported, the 29 million pounds of antibiotics given to livestock every year -- about four times the amount consumed by people, and mostly used at sub-therapeutic doses -- appears to be contributing to a rise in drug-resistant infections in both animals and people. The most infamous of the microbes: methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA.

"We've worked our way into a pickle," said David Wallinga, a senior adviser at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The more antibiotics we use, the more microbes become resistant to those drugs -- even to our "biggest guns." It's a microscopic survival of the fittest.


Regardless of its origin, debate abounds over just how much danger is posed by MRSA in meat. According to Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, that concern is minimal.

Gail Hansen, senior officer with the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, added, "It's not clear what happens when MRSA is ingested." However, a lot is known about exposure through the blood stream, she said, which is the typical route of infection in the hospital and among livestock handlers such as Kremer.


Read the full article, Going Hog Wild: Weaning Antibiotic-Resistant Bugs Out Of Pork, on the Huffington Post's Web site.

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