We’ve Reached “The End of Antibiotics, Period”

In an interview for the PBS program “Frontline”, Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an associate director at the Centers for Disease Control, outlines the challenges the worldwide medical community faces as we reach the end of the effectiveness of antibiotics to treat common infections.

Srinivasan shares that some of the most important medical interventions like transplants and stem cell therapies will become increasingly impossible without the use of effective antibiotics. “We’re here. We’re in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t. “

He connects the overuse of antibiotics to treat trivial infections and the prevalence of their use in livestock as major contributing factors to the rise of superbugs and emerging classes of bacteria that fail to respond to conventional antibiotic therapies. Srinivasan sees the effort to address the crisis of antibiotic resistance as extending beyond just governmental intercession and suggests that a concerted, multi-faceted approach is necessary to combat the ascension of new pathogens and the decline of useful drugs to treat them.

You can read the entire interview here, or watch the “Frontline” episode “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria” which features Dr. Srinivasan and many other experts that explore the likely scenarios that will emerge in the battle against antibiotic resistance by clicking here. A preview of the program can be seen below.

The Battle Begins: Humans vs Antibiotics

Here is an image that illustrates the cycle of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic use in livestock - an Introduction. Is this a Sustainable practice?

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing issues facing Americans today. The CDC is concerned that agriculture is playing a major role in this. Currently, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for agricultural use  (http://bit.ly/1eIUrQh)  Most often, these antibiotics are distributed at sub-therapeutic levels to healthy animals as a way to compensate for crowded and unsanitary living conditions or to promote growth. Today, many people who take antibiotics for infections such as streptomycin and amoxicillin are no longer working. Anytime a bacteria gets introduced to an antibiotic, it develops resistance such as this to the antibiotic. The use of antibiotics were not meant for everyday use, they were meant to be used judicially, due to the bacteria being able to "outsmart" the antibiotic. Antibiotics originally were created for such causes as to prevent infection, for example given before a surgery (http://bit.ly/8jE2yQ). And, when antibiotics are used sparingly, they are effective agents against bacterial infections. However, now due to their increased use (mainly from the use of livestock) they are becoming less effective.

As Katie Couric says in her interview on the issue: Antibiotics will no longer work at all soon.

Katie Couric's interview on livetsock antibiotic use.

U.S. Tightens Rules on Antibiotics Use for Livestock

U.S. Tightens Rules on Antibiotics Use for Livestock

For the first time and for the hope of decreasing human deaths, farmers will need a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in farm animals. For over 35 years the FDA was trying to stop ranchers from giving cattle and other animals food that contains antibiotics in order to make them grow faster. When drugs are used intensively for long times, the body will produce bacteria that are resistant to the drug’s impacts, endangering humans who become infected but are not able to be treated with usual antibiotic therapy. The new FDA’s rule might save lives because that would protect animals from having specific illness. On the other hand, the R.C. Hunt thought that farmers would have hard time following the new rule that FDA issued. The Obama administration publicized restrictions on agricultural uses of cephalosporin and other drugs. 

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What is YOUR story?


Everyone has a story. Everyone has something that has brought them closer to the issue of antibiotic effects. Here is mine:

I used to coach middle school cross country. Our training would start in the hot, dry months of summer and eventually go through the stormy months of autumn. These kids would begin with wining and grimacing as their psychopathic coach drove their young bodies to levels of physical exhurtion that they did not realize they were capable of. These grimaces soon turned to broad smiles as they began to embrace their own strength.
The reason that this happened was that they started from the ground up in understanding what running was! From the start of practice, I talked about why humans run. We talked about the first time that running was used for hunting, for defense, for enjoyment, for relaxation and finally for competition. We talked about the fact that competition started as a fellowship of athletes coming together to celebrate their pride and strengths as athletes. I think that the same approach applies to our research potential and the way that we embrace the fundamental issue of antibiotics in our food supply.
It is NOT a new issue, just like jogging is not a new form of running, and just like soccer is not a new sport, but a sport which our nation is just beginning to embrace. We must instead approach this issue knowing all of the angles, the reasons, and politics. There was as reason why lead was incorporated into gasoline at the introduction of the internal combustion engine. In the same way, there was originally a reason why antibiotics were introduced into beef cattle! Why was that? Where did we go wrong? These questions all need to be addressed for us to have a truly open and lively argument against the continued use of antibiotics in meat. Without a good understanding, we’re just jogging, not running.

Geoff Barrett
Research Group