Antibiotic Superbug found in Aussie chicken meat

Scientists from the School of Biology from the Australian National University took 281 samples from three major supermarkets and a butcher around Canberra.

In those chicken samples contaminated with the common bacteria E.coli, almost two thirds of the bugs were resistant to some form of antibiotic.

…Researchers were particularly concerned to find four samples resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics, which are banned from use in Australian food-producing animals.

[Source: ABC]

It is a mystery, for the bacteria shouldn’t be able to gain resistance without exposure to the antibiotic. Scientists suggest some form of cross-contamination between the slaughterhouse and their testing, but only humans, cats and dogs receive fluoroquinolone antibiotics in Australia.

MRSA ST398 Making Farmers Ill

This is from New Scientist last year:

Dosing livestock with antibiotics can be bad for farmers’ health. A strain of MRSA that causes skin infections and sepsis in farm workers evolved its resistance to antibiotics inside farm animals.

The ST398 strain of MRSA first appeared in 2003 and is prevalent in US livestock. Humans who pick it up from animals can become dangerously ill, but it cannot yet spread from human to human.

And now, according to The Daily Mail, strain ST398 is showing up in British milk:

Scientists tested 1,500 samples of bulk milk and found seven cases of MRSA ST398 from five farms in England, Scotland and Wales.

It might not be long before the sometimes deadly ST398 evolves, developing the ability to be transmitted between humans. One more tragic antibiotic fail waiting to unfold.

An educated opinion on this news can be found at Wired.com.

Note: The pasteurization process should kill MRSA, but not all milk and cheese is pasteurized.

Cattle, Sheep, Chickens and Pigs Use 80% of all Antibiotics

It is well documented that the BIG antibiotic problem is overuse in agriculture, where quicker weight gains can be achieved while humans face an enormous tragedy because of it.

But it is perhaps more sobering when presented as a percentage. Or in a graph:

Or, just under 80%. And in case you are wondering, yes meat production is on the rise, but not nearly as fast as agricultural antibiotic use. And of course human populations are growing as well…

Read the post at Mother Jones for the full story, but here’s a sobering fact:

  • Of the Salmonella on ground turkey, about 78% were resistant to at least one antibiotic and half of the bacteria were resistant to three or more.

Antibiotic-free Meats Selling Well

Consumer Reports sent shoppers to 136 stores in 23 states, belonging to the 13 largest supermarket chains, to see what kind of meat and poultry products raised without antibiotics are offered and at what price.

What they found is encouraging. The shoppers found that one chain, Whole Foods, is already offering nothing but meat and poultry raised without antibiotics. Several others – Giant, Hannaford, Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, Publix, and Trader Joe’s – had broad selections of these products. At only four chains were shoppers unable to find any organic or other products raised without antibiotics: Sam’s Club, Food 4 Less, Food Lion, and Save-A-Lot. [Source]

They also found that the antibiotic-free meats weren’t necessarily any more expensive. Unfortunately, this consumer preference has not made any inroads into processed meats – where 80% of U.S. meat ends up.

In a national survey, more than 85% of adult consumers said they thought that fresh meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local stores and supermarkets. Consequently Consumer Reports have launched a new campaign – Meat Without Drugs, Stop the Superbugs with a companion website, www.MeatWithoutDrugs.org, and this video:

Germs Retaining Resistance, After Antibiotics Halted

Scientists had expected that, on farms where the practice of giving antibiotics to livestock has ceased, germ immunity would slowly fade away. Alas, that is not the case:

To the team’s surprise, the entire bug community kept most of its armor against the antibiotics, even after 2 ½ years. When the researchers grew the bacteria in the lab, for example, 70% to 100% of them were still resistant to chlortetracycline when the pigs were slaughtered. “I didn’t expect such high levels of resistance would remain,” says Chénier, whose team will publish the results in the January issue of Microbial Ecology.

It might be due to resistance genes being attached to other genes that remain useful. Or it could be due to reinfection from fertiliser:

The new data, he says, suggest that the common practice of using swine waste as a fertilizer is like spreading truckloads of antibiotic resistance on farmland. Those bacteria can share their resistance with other bacteria that happen to be on crops and in downstream aquatic ecosystems—bacteria that could cause illness, Chénier says. “This is a time bomb.