IF you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat. But what if that meat is us?
Five years after my great-uncle’s death, penicillin changed medicine forever. Infections that had been death sentences—from battlefield wounds, industrial accidents, childbirth—suddenly could be cured in a few days. So when I first read the story of his death, it lit up for me what life must have been like before antibiotics started saving us. -- Lately, though, I read it differently. In Joe’s story, I see what life might become if we did not have antibiotics any more.
The secret, social lives of bacteria. "Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria 'talk' to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry -- and our understanding of ourselves." [Via]
83 percent of fresh, whole broiler chickens in the U.S. contain campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease. This is a disturbing increase from the 49 percent that tested positive in 2003. What’s more, most of the bacteria showed resistance to one or more antibiotics, and more expensive premium brands were actually more likely to contain salmonella. Is the problem factory farming? Rampant antibiotic use? Or are chickens just really gross?
First vancomycin-resistant bacteria found in Detroit. This is worrisome, as vancomycin is usually the last antibiotic of choice when fighting a bacterial infection. Bacteria are both helpful and hurtful to the human body, but the little bugs seem to evolve much more quickly than humans own immune systems. Have we seen an end to antibiotics used in the fight against bacteria? What alternatives do we have?