What we are addressing today, for the sake of tomorrow.
Antibiotic resistance is an undeniably serious and growing problem in the United States, one caused by overuse of antibiotics both in human medicine and in agriculture.
In September 2013, the CDC reported there are at least two million serious antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States that result in more than 23,000 deaths annually—prompting concern that we are on the verge of a “post-antibiotic era.”
With 70% of the antibiotics sold in the United States each year given to farm animals, it is not surprising that over 20% of serious resistance infections come from food and farms. Much of this antibiotic use is not to treat sick animals, but is instead added to feed to compensate for inappropriate diets and crowded, stressful, and unhealthy conditions.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria caused by indiscriminate use of antibiotics in agriculture most commonly affect humans through contamination of meat products, but may also reach people via the environment—particularly air, waterways, and soil contaminated with manure. When bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, they cause more serious illness including increased hospitalization and death.
Antibiotic resistance already costs the U.S. economy up to $55 billion annually in additional medical and costs associated with lost work, to say nothing of the economic and emotional impact on patients and their families as bacterial illnesses grow harder and harder to treat.
The spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs is a major public health crisis that threatens the extensive medical advances of the last century. While most infections are still treatable with at least one antibiotic, this may not be the case for much longer.
To maintain antibiotic effectiveness and eradicate the threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, KAW's focus is on the following four actions:
1. KAW supports a federal prohibition on the use of antibiotics in animals that are not sick.
Stopping the overuse of antibiotics: Animals must be treated when they are sick, but using these drugs for other purposes should be prohibited. Treating sick animals may include treating whole groups of animals when only a limited number in the group show signs of illness.
2.) KAW supports farms making humane changes to how they raise animals--providing appropriate diets, improving hygiene, reducing crowding, and using vaccines appropriately-so that antibiotics are not needed.
Raising animals with fewer drugs: Healthy farms mean healthier animals, and that these healthier animals can grow without the routine use of antibiotics. Too often farms use antibiotics to control problems caused by poor diets, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions.
3.) KAW supports the creation of a federal program to collect data on why farms use antibiotics and in what amounts.
Tracking on-farm antibiotic use: Having verified data on the use and purpose of antibiotics on farms is necessary to stop the overuse of antibiotics. Due to KAW's efforts, the United States Congress in 2008 required the Food and Drug Administration to collect and report data for the first time on antibiotic sales for farm animal use. Data shows that antibiotic sales have increased annually, but regrettably the data collection does not require information on what animal species are getting the drugs, nor for what purpose.
4.) KAW supports the federal National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, is a joint program of the FDA, USDA, and CDC that looks for superbugs in animals, food, and sick people.
Identifying and tracking superbugs: The spread and outbreak of antibiotic-resistant superbugs are increasing, and have proven to be deadly to both people and animals. Robust tracking and monitoring of superbugs is essential for both human and animal health.