April 11, 2012 |
No place on Earth demonstrates the resilience or inventiveness of life quite like Lechuguilla Cave, whose subterranean tunnels stretch for 130 miles through Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. Deep in the cave's most arid recesses, deprived of all sunlight and mostly starved of life-giving water, a lush garden of bacteria grows. Untouched by humans for all of their 4 million years, these strains of bacteria thrive on the harsh minerals of the geological formations to which they cling and fend off other life forms that would prey on them.
January 13, 2012
When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration restricted the routine use of a class of antibiotics known as cephalosporins in livestock, it picked an easy target. The agency's move is better than nothing, but nonetheless it is a reminder of the FDA's achingly slow and timid efforts to wean agriculture off the overuse of important medications. Call it a tiptoe forward after a recent giant step in the other direction and a long era of standing in one place. Eighty percent of the antibiotics used in this country are given to chicken, pigs, turkey and cattle, not because the animals are sick but to fatten them and prevent illness from sweeping through crowded pens.
January 9, 2012 |
Only 20% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to people who are sick with bacterial infections, such as ear and urinary tract infections and pneumonia. Most of the penicillin, tetracycline and other antibiotic drugs used in this country are given to livestock that are perfectly healthy. Farmers have been putting these medicines in animal feed since the 1950s. They say the drugs help protect herds from infectious diseases and help animals grow faster. But for at least 40 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been concerned that the widespread practice may be fueling the growth of human pathogens that are no longer vulnerable to doctors' front-line drugs.
August 6, 2011
Buyers of poultry products from a Cargill processing plant in Arkansas may have gotten a little something extra with their turkey burgers: a strain of antibiotic-resistant salmonella that is implicated in the death of a Sacramento man and the illness of 79 others around the country. In response, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of turkey products last week, among the largest food recalls ever. But just because that turkey is off the shelves doesn't mean it's safe to eat undercooked poultry — or any of a host of other foods potentially contaminated by antibiotic-resistant "superbugs.
July 25, 2011 |
Eating cranberries to help prevent urinary tract infections is an old home remedy that has stood the test of time. But women who have recurrent urinary tract infections will find more relief from antibiotics, researchers said Monday. An estimated 30% of premenopausal women develop chronic urinary tract infections. A low dose of the antibiotic trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole is often prescribed to women who have repeated urinary tract infections in order to prevent recurrences. Typically, however, doctors try to avoid long-term use of antibiotics because it can lead to antibiotic resistance.
July 12, 2011 |
A new strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea should be enough to scare anyone who's playing the field without full protection. But the worries might not stop there. Like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are sexually transmitted diseases that are caused by bacteria. And anytime you have a bacterial disease, there's at least some chance that the germs could eventually find a way to outsmart antibiotics. So what are the odds that chlamydia or syphilis could turn into the next super germs?
June 3, 2011 |
A new strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, has been discovered in cows and humans in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, researchers reported Thursday. The new strain disturbs researchers because it evades one of the most commonly used tests to detect MRSA, which could lead physicians to prescribe the wrong antibiotics to treat the infection. The new strain of the bacterium is still relatively rare and, so far, no deaths have been attributed to it, the team reported in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
April 25, 2011 |
Yet another study has found stuff you don't want to eat in stuff that you eat. On April 15, scientists reported that the meat bought at supermarkets is often contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics used to fight human disease. The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found staph on 47% of 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 grocery stores in five U.S. cities. Of those bacteria, 96% were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic and more than half were resistant to at least three.
April 16, 2011 |
The new study about drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus found in meat and poultry samples certainly sounds alarming -- such bacteria can cause serious infections in humans and can even lead to death. But consumers face a relatively small direct threat from the bacteria in food, and a few simple precautions should provide short-term peace of mind. Long-term peace of mind may take longer. It does seem possible that the meat industry is contributing to antibiotic resistance in some way. The FDA was concerned enough last year to urge that the meat industry use antibiotics only when necessary.
April 16, 2011 |
The problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has long been blamed on uninformed patients and overly permissive doctors. And as a society, we've begun to take responsibility for what our love affair with bacteria-killing drugs has wrought. We've learned (many of us) to ask for antibiotics only if we truly need them. And, if we truly need them, to take them as directed -- and to take the full course. But drug resistance may not be the sole fault of uninformed patients and overly permissive doctors.