Our Ignorance of the Link Between Antibiotic Resistance and Agricultural Use Is No Accident

We come across two posts and an online forum hosted by the British Medical Journal about whether agricultural antibiotic use results in the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistance. A common theme that emerges is that the scientific evidence is not conclusive.

But it’s worth remembering that this is not an accidental state of affairs. The agricultural industry has consistently resisted (pun intended) microbiological efforts to address this problem, from attempting to refocus and slash the funding of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System to successfully eliminating the Microbiological Data Program. Extra bonus chicanery: they’ve also managed to alter regulations to make it harder to detect meat contaminated with shiga-toxin producing organisms–things like E. coli O104:H4, the German outbreak strain of 2011 (but I digress).

In light of the active campaign to limit our ability to substantiate (or weaken) an agricultural-clinical link, it’s worth considering this when thinking about public policy. In the real world–not the one of debates in academic journals–one side is not playing honestly and following the evidence where it will lead us. Instead, they have a track record of actively limiting our ability to even gather that evidence, never mind act on it.

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3 Responses to Our Ignorance of the Link Between Antibiotic Resistance and Agricultural Use Is No Accident

  1. fiona walsh says:

    The Swiss government has recently endorsed a research plan on this very topic (it will come into place in 2015) and I have been working with the Swiss department of Agriculture on this topic for the past four years. It is slowly coming round, at least from the Swiss!

  2. Min says:

    Ignorance? I read about the problem of agricultural use of antibiotics and the evolution of resistant bacteria in Penthouse or Playboy in the mid 1970s. As you indicate, suppression of knowledge is more like it.

  3. dabbe says:

    About the German outbreak strain of 2011, I always felt the Egyptian fenugreek source was an easy scapegoat. But I guess I digress also.

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