Super Bugs: Antibiotics Create Penicillin-Resistant Salmonella

By: Dylan Rodgers

Here in the US, over medicating could be considered the norm.  We take a pill for every 'condition', like mild-unhappiness, and once our bodies start to twitch or quake in reaction we take a pill for that too.  But in the fight against gross, asexual bacteria, antibiotics are a welcome commodity.  So what would happen if antibiotics were overused?

In 2009 alone, America's livestock consumed some 28.6 million pounds of antibiotics laced into the feed.  This reduces the number of animals that get sick thereby focusing more of the animal's energy on muscle growth.

The one major problem is that bacteria are evolutionary geniuses.  The regular use of antibiotics causes the already rapid evolution of bacteria to develop immunity to the substance.  And there is nothing more frightening than an enemy that doubles in size in less than ten minutes, is invisible, and impervious to our antibiotic weaponry.

This year the super-strain of salmonella Heidelberg sickened 100 Americans and killed one person after contaminating Cargill Incorporated's ground turkey.  This salmonella strain is entirely resistant to penicillin, one of our main weapons against it.  Cargill issued a recall of 36 million pounds of turkey on August 3rd, the third-largest meat recall in history.  Even worse is the Wall Street Journal's article saying that the USDA found traces of salmonella Heidelberg in Cargill's turkey last year and did nothing about it.

To not write this off as some fluke of nature-Hormel Food Corporation also issued a recall of 55,000 lbs. of turkey burgers contaminated with another antibiotic-resistant super-salmonella strain in April.

This is an important and tragic lesson of how more medicine cannot solve our problems.    The fact that anti-depression pills "may cause depression" and our answer is "more medication!" should've been an omen foreshadowing a scenario like this one.

Hopefully from this point on we will take greater caution as to the possible repercussions of our actions in the modification of natural things.  We must take responsibility for the super-bugs, monsters of our own design, and begin to see the line between efficiency in food production and our health.

Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Senate Bill Addresses Antibiotics in Animal Feed


Antibiotics are microorganisms used to kill or slow down the growth of bacteria and to help your body recuperate from illness. They are also sometimes used in animal feed to fatten pigs or speed up the growth of chickens. However, overuse of antibiotics can lower their effectiveness. Bacteria becomes resistant to the drugs and so every time you eat the pork or chicken that contains these antibiotics, you become more vulnerable to different strains of bacteria.

It is estimated that around 80% of all antibiotics in the U.S can be found in animals used for food. In late June, a group of senators re-introduced a bill from 2007 that would limit and eventually fade out the use of antibiotics in animal feed.

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (or PAMTA) is headed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and is supported by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). PAMTA would regulate the seven types of antibiotics that are predominant and important for human medicine, to make sure we don't develop too much resistance to them. The bill will phase out non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock, require new applications to ensure antibiotics used will not endanger public health, and ensure that antibiotics are still available to use in treatments for sick livestock and pets.

If the bill passes, the animal agriculture industry will get a much needed re-vamp and boost since antibiotics are a critical tool for preventing disease and preserving animal health and welfare. In the meantime, trying to stay healthy instead relying on antibiotics may sound like a better option. Things like food justice initiatives and eating more consciously by eating local and organic foods are all steps in the right direction.