So what is wrong with listening to the drumbeat, to the endless calls to protect ourselves against the coming plague – against Ebola from Africa and bird flu from Asia? Is it possible that a huge pandemic could erupt from some as-yet unknown pathogen? Is apocalypse lurking out there, among rats or monkeys, or bats or flying squirrels or birds? The Black Death shows that you can never say never: there might be an animal pathogen out there that, under the right circumstances, can evolve and maintain both virulence and transmissibility among humans as well as animals.
“We decided that animal health, and human health, would be our priority,” Oosterlaken told me last fall in his barn, surrounded by warm plastic-lined pens where sows snoozed and new piglets squealed. “I don’t need to take antibiotics every day. There’s no reason my pigs should either.”
"Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection." This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States, 2013, a first-ever snapshot of the burden and threats posed by the antibiotic-resistant germs having the most impact on human health. "If we’re not careful, the medicine chest will be empty when we go there to look for a life-saving antibiotic,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden told reporters. Reports in the Washington Post and New York Times. (Also previously.) [more inside]
Optimal control of MRSA's spread and diversity would involve attention to the role of pets and livestock, especially factory-farmed livestock (40 minute podcast -- no transcript, but here is the text of an interview that covers some of the same ground as the podcast.) Science journalist Maryn McKenna: "[Bacteria are] unpredictable and dynamic . . . We have few treatment options, so we need to be much more thoughtful." [more inside]
Our Decrepit Food Factories. Michael Pollan on what sustainability is really about. [Via Gristmill.]
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. In 2005, invasive MRSA infections were estimated to have killed 18,650 in the United States alone. This may be a conservative estimate. It is going global. It is changing politics. It may become pandemic. [more inside]
Resistant-bacteria reports cause alarm Another good reason to avoid Fenway Park and the Redsox