In addition to spawning epidemics of zoonotic diseases such as bird flu that can “jump” from livestock to humans, industrial farms are contributing to an outbreak of ‘superbugs’ – bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
People can become infected with superbugs by working in close proximity to the animals themselves or by eating tainted meat. A recent study shows that people can even be infected via insects that transport antibiotic resistant bacteria from factory farms to surrounding residential areas.
When superbugs infiltrate hospitals, they can make sick people even sicker. One well known example is Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a multi-drug resistant species that kills 20,000 Americans every year.
Although there’s an extensive amount of evidence showing that giving antibiotics to animals spreads antibiotic-resistant bacteria to people, the meat industry has refused to accept that excessive antibiotic use in agriculture is to blame for the dramatic increase in antibiotic resistance.
The meat industry argues that the rise of superbugs might be attributable to increased antibiotic use outside agriculture – such as use in human medicine.
But recent research
is working to combat that argument.
A new study shows that chickens, chicken meat, and humans are carrying identical, highly drug-resistant E. coli. The research suggests that antibiotic resistance is being spread through the food chain.