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Weekly Overview: The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis: Is Farming to Blame?

23 September 2013

ANALYSIS - A report published in the US last week on antibiotic resistance has been generally supported by the food animal industry, which accepted some level of criticism for its involvement and stressed its role in helping to prevent a future crisis. Some campaigners took advantage of the report, claiming it should be a wake up call for "factory farming". More cases of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea have been reported in the US but the increase is showing signs of slowing down.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) prioritises the most threatening 'superbugs' in human medicine in the US and outlines four core actions to halt antibiotic resistance in pathogens.

CDC says 'Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013' offers a snapshot of the complex problem of antibiotic resistance today and the potentially catastrophic consequences of inaction.

The overriding purpose of the report, says CDC, is to increase awareness of the threat that antibiotic resistance poses and to encourage immediate action to address the threat.

The first section of the report provides context and an overview of antibiotic resistance in the US. It gives a nationwide assessment of the most dangerous antibiotic resistance threats, prioritising bacteria (and one fungus) into one of three categories: urgent, serious and concerning.

Other chapters cover what can be done to combat this growing threat and a summary of each of the pathogens covered by the report.

Commenting on the report, one campaign group - Food & Water Watch - took the opportunity to blame antibiotic resistance on 'factory farms', saying it should come as a wake-up call for that sector of the industry.

The Animal Health Institute (AHI), on the other hand, generally supported the findings of the report, saying that it confirms FDA’s developing policy to phase out growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics and to phase in more veterinary oversight. AHI highlighted that, of the 18 specific antibiotic-resistant threats discussed in the report, only two have possible connections to antibiotic use in food animals.

In Norway last week, a variant of animal-associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was reported to have been detected in samples from 11 pig herds in eastern Norway and from five farms in Rogaland.

Following on from the news last week that the UK has introduced a method to determine the country of origin on pork, the new test revealed wrongly-labelled pork chops sold by one leading supermarket chain as 'British'.

The latest update on Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) in the US appears to show some stabilisation in the situation. The total number of swine accessions and diagnostic case submissions testing positive for the PED virus was 612 for the week of 8 September, 28 more than the previous week. The number of states affected remains at 17, with the majority of cases in Iowa and Oklahoma.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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