Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Trouble with Antibiotics

PBS Frontline has done a hard hitting documentary on the risks and costs associated with excessive and improper use of antibiotics.

Women in Flagstaff AZ were showing up at Doctor's offices and hospital Emergency Rooms with urinary tract infections ("UTI") that were not easily cured.  The infections were resistant to multiple antibiotics.  When scientists looked at the proximity between those women and CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) for pork, they found a significant correlation.

If you lived near a CAFO, you had a high likelihood of developing a drug-resistant UTI.

Drug resistant UTI's take significantly longer to cure.  While searching for the right antibiotic by lab tests, the infection engulfs the bladder, and starts its nasty work on the kidneys.  At the kidneys, the bacteria soon crosses over to the blood, often leading to septicemia.  That's when you have a significant risk of quickly dying.

To confirm the link, raw meat samples were collected from local grocery stores over a 1 year period.  Those samples were tested for bacteria, and identified by their DNA sequencing.  Samples of the UTI infectious agents sampled from the women's UTI's were also sequenced.  The scientists soon discovered more than 100 matches of the DNA fingerprints between the grocery store meats and the women's drug resistant UTI's.

Meat industry spokespersons and lobbyists said this DNA matching between grocery store meat and UTI's was mere coincidence, or suggested that nobody really knows how the women got those infections, nor how the meat came to have similar bacteria, and this was inconclusive evidence.

When PBS put those statements before the scientists who found the correlaation, the lobbyists' propaganda was soundly rejected.  The scientists said all the other possible explanations are vastly improbable.  The women likely shop for the meat, the meat is contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria, the women become contaminated from the meat, and eventually, a UTI occurs.

Pretty simple explanation of the scientists' data.  Occum's Razor seems to apply, and the scientists' explanation seems to pass.

The evidence of the cost and consequences from improper use of antibiotics on farms is growing every day.  How long will the strong farming lobby be able to resist and deny the risks they create for the general public?

In the second part, we see the scary story of a hospital having an outbreak of a Superbug infection at an Intensive Care Unit ("ICU").  Many patients died during the 6 months that they valiantly fought to get rid of their uninvited, deadly guest.

Watch and learn from PBS' documentary:  The Trouble with Antibiotics

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