Research shows drug-resistant bacteria kill more than a million people in one year
Chicago — U.S. PIRG Education Fund is launching the Coalition to Preserve Antibiotics after a recent report in the esteemed medical journal The Lancet noted that antibiotic resistant infections killed at least 1.27 million people around the world in 2019. The new coalition includes doctors, farmers, animal health and public health professionals dedicated to reducing antibiotic use in agriculture, which purchases about two-thirds of the medically important antibiotics sold in the United States.
The coalition’s mission statement, which animal and human health professionals can endorse here, states that, “In order to help avert the health crisis of antibiotic resistance, we will work with stakeholders at all levels of government, industry, and academia to advance better antibiotic stewardship in agriculture.”
Industrial farms use these infection-fighting drugs to prevent disease in animals raised in unsanitary, overcrowded and stressful conditions. The routine use of these medically important antibiotics breeds drug-resistant bacteria that can spread off farms and get people sick. Veterinarians are also increasingly encountering infections in animals where one or more antibiotics aren’t effective at treating the illness. That’s both an animal welfare concern and an economic loss for farmers if those animals die.
“Antibiotic resistant organisms are a dire public threat in our hospitals, food supply, communities and environment,” said infectious disease physician and coalition member Sameer Patel, MD MPH. “Healthcare workers, farmers, restaurateurs, consumers—all of us can make changes now to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and decrease the threat of antimicrobial resistance.”
The coalition’s members include several farmers and ranchers who raise their animals responsibly, without overusing antibiotics, including Joseph Fischer, from Fischer Farms in Indiana.
“Fischer Farms raises cattle without the routine use of antibiotics because it’s a key component of raising our cattle naturally. With proper animal husbandry and management, we produce top quality beef without having to overuse life-saving medicines,” said Joseph Fischer, Sales Manager at Fischer Farms and member of the coalition.
The coalition’s mission statement echoes Fischer’s call to reduce antibiotic use: “While we believe that antibiotics can be used to treat sick animals — just as we treat sick people — they should not be used as a substitute for improved animal husbandry and management practices that can mitigate disease risk.”
While the new Lancet report says at least 1.27 million people already die in a year from drug-resistant infections, without swift action those “superbugs” could claim 10 million lives across the world annually by 2050.
“Without effective antibiotics, even a paper cut could be a death sentence. We need to do everything in our power to preserve our lifesaving medicines for when people and animals truly need them. That’s our coalition’s mission,” said Matt Wellington, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Public Health Campaigns Director.