Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

The Superbug Doctors Have Been Dreading Is Now in the U.S.

Food

A team of scientists at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Army Institute of Research in Washington, DC has discovered the first instance of a person living in the U.S. infected with a feared antibiotic-resistant microbe, according to a research report published Thursday in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

An E. coli bacterium taken from a Pennsylvania woman suffering from a urinary tract infection contained the mcr-1 gene that conveys resistance to colistin, which physicians consider the antibiotic of last resort. Photo credit: Shutterstock

An E. coli bacterium taken from a Pennsylvania woman suffering from a urinary tract infection contained the mcr-1 gene that conveys resistance to colistin, which physicians consider the antibiotic of last resort.

“We risk living in a post-antibiotic world,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The continued over-use of antibiotics may lead to infections that no drugs can cure.

Until very recently, no bacterial strains had evolved resistance to colistin. But this medically essential drug is used in Chinese and European livestock production. China is one of the world’s top consumers of colistin for veterinary use. Late last year, an international team of scientists working in China found the mcr-1 gene in colistin-resistant bacteria in people and animals.

Why would we risk an antibiotic so vital to human health by dosing well animals with it?

About 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are deployed in livestock production. But most of these animals aren’t sick. In fact, most veterinary antibiotics go to animals to encourage faster growth or to prevent illnesses associated with confined living conditions.

Microbes that have developed resistance to antibiotics are sometimes found on meat sold in supermarkets. A 2013 Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of U.S. government reports showed that antibiotic resistant bacteria had been detected in 81 percent of raw turkey meat and 69 percent of raw pork tested by federal scientists.

Each year 23,000 Americans die from infections of antibiotic resistant bacteria, according to the CDC. Continued overuse of medically important antibiotics could dramatically increase the death toll. But so far the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken a strictly voluntary approach to reducing overuse of antibiotics. The FDA’s efforts have had little impact.

In contrast, regulators in the European Union have called for a reduction by two thirds of colistin use in livestock. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would restrict the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock.

Unless we take dramatic measures now to transform animal agriculture, we risk a world where antibiotics don’t work, more incurable bacterial infections in people and a rising death toll.

As a consumer, you can opt for organic meat and poultry that are raised without unnecessary antibiotics. Check out EWG’s Food Scores to learn about meat and poultry raised without these critical medicines.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Landmark Federal Study Links Cell Phone Radiation to Brain Cancer

Glyphosate Found in Urine of 93 percent of Americans Tested

Monsanto Ordered to Pay $46.5 Million in PCB Lawsuit in Rare Win for Plaintiffs

More Big Retailers Say ‘No’ to GMO Salmon

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Anderson Community Group. Left to right, Caroline Laur, Anita Foust, the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, and Bill Compton, came together to fight for environmental justice in their community. Anderson Community Group

By Isabella Garcia

On Thanksgiving Day 2019, right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur's backdoor.

Read More Show Less
Berber woman cooks traditional flatbread using an earthen oven in her mud-walled village home located near the historic village of Ait Benhaddou in Morocco, Africa on Jan. 4, 2016. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. /NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg and Jason Flatt

The world's Indigenous Peoples face severe and disproportionate rates of food insecurity. While Indigenous Peoples comprise 5 percent of the world's population, they account for 15 percent of the world's poor, according to the World Health Organization.

Read More Show Less
Danny Choo / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Olivia Sullivan

One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.

Read More Show Less
A mostly empty 110 freeway toward downtown Los Angeles, California on April 28, 2020. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.

Read More Show Less
Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less