Antibiotic Resistance

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California Legislature To Consider Antibiotic Ban in Animals

Stanford University Infectious Disease Specialist David Relman with Assemblyman Kevin Mullin looking on (Jeff Walters/Assembly Democratic Caucus).

Stanford University Infectious Disease Specialist David Relman with Assemblyman Kevin Mullin looking on (Jeff Walters/Assembly Democratic Caucus).

By Joe Rubin

A new bill in the California Legislature could give California the distinction of going where the federal government hasn’t — more strictly regulating the way that livestock are given antibiotics.

But freshman state Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), who is introducing state Assembly Bill 1437, says getting it through the agricultural committee is a bit of long shot.

More than 70 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to animals, often to healthy livestock. Until very recently drug companies marketed the growth-promoting benefits of antibiotics. And many meat producers, keen for additional profits and assured by pharmaceutical companies that the practice was safe for people and animals, would routinely add antibiotics to feed.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration, after years of debate on the issue, asked drug companies to voluntarily stop marketing the growth-promoting benefits of antibiotics out of concerns for public health. The companies are largely complying. But critics like the Natural Resources Defense Council and New York Times food writer Mark Bittman have criticized the FDA’s approach as lax and unlikely to lead to any real change.

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Inappropriate Use of Antibiotics on Decline; Still a Ways to Go

(David Kalsbeek/Flickr)

More than two dozen American health organizations — including the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics for starters — are banding together to fight the overuse of antibiotics. In new research, Extending the Cure, a DC-based policy group aiming to reduce inappropriate use or antibiotics, found prescribing rates dropped 17 percent nationally — and 24 percent here in California — from 1999 to 2010.

For a refresher: remember that antibiotics fight bacterial infections; they are useless the common cold or influenza — those are caused by viruses.

Those lower prescribing rates make a difference, not just in avoiding medicines that won’t help you — or could even hurt you. All drugs have side effects, after all. Reduced use of antibiotics means reduced creation of superbugs. “For many pathogens,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of Extending the Cure, “resistance rates are lower in California than other states.” Continue reading