US: The rise of superbugs and the abuse of antibiotics
Posted: March 14th, 2010 - 1:51pm
Source: New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “The Spread of Superbugs” (column, March 7):
After learning that Nicholas D. Kristof believes that agribusiness is a major culprit behind the emergence of superbugs, as an infectious diseases expert, I feel that he needs to make rounds with me.
In reality, a patient commonly receives (or in some cases, demands) an antibiotic — when it’s not needed. Those who fail to improve get admitted to hospitals and become victims to further abuse with even stronger antibiotics. This, not agribusiness, leads to the development of superbugs.
Some patients suffer; others succumb. As cost-effectiveness is the only attention-grabber for the hospital administrators, such poor outcomes go unnoticed. The business of health care starts looking no different from agribusiness — and the cycle keeps repeating itself.
Preventing the abuse of antibiotics in humans should remain the focus of regulatory agencies, medical societies and the media. Alleging that “agribusiness madly overuses antibiotics, leaving them ineffective for sick humans” is barking up the wrong tree.
Baltimore, March 8, 2010
The writer is chief and medical director, Division of Infectious Disease and Prevention, Upper Chesapeake Health, and clinical assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
To the Editor:
On our family farm, I’m raising three young girls. I’m also raising, at any given time, around 3,000 beef cattle.
The fact is, nobody cares more about cattle than the people of the beef industry. Caring for our cattle, like caring for my daughters, sometimes means using antibiotics. When our doctor prescribes antibiotics for my daughter, I ask questions. I do the same thing with our cattle.
My family believes that it is our responsibility to deliver the healthiest animals to the human food supply. That means using antibiotics in a judicious way, in accordance with our Beef Quality Assurance training and in cooperation with our veterinarian.
My family eats the beef we raise, and we do so with confidence. Restricting access to antibiotics won’t mean healthier people; it will mean more illness for animals.
Cozad, Neb., March 9, 2010
To the Editor:
In talking about the role of agribusiness in the rise of antibiotic resistance, Nicholas D. Kristof doesn’t mention the role that health insurance carriers should be playing in dealing with agribusiness.
If health care reform is got even marginally right, health insurers will suddenly have real economic incentive to maximize the health of the people they cover, rather than simply dropping coverage of those who get sick as they do now. It will then be in the best interest of the health care industry and its lobbyists to tackle major public health issues.
While agribusiness has plenty of high-powered lobbyists, they might meet their match if health care lobbyists are suddenly working on restricting the use of antibiotics in livestock, not to mention the potential fight with agribusiness over trying to improve the average American diet.
Jeremy M. Posner
New York, March 7, 2010