Walmart Pork Products Containing Superbugs Resistant to Critically Important Antibiotics Discovered
By Aristos Georgiou, Newsweek
Testing has revealed the presence of bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics in pork products sold at Walmart stores in the eastern U.S., according to a report.
Research conducted by non-profit World Animal Protection (WAP) identified several strains of bacteria in the meat, 80 percent of which were resistant to at least one antibiotic. Furthermore, the report found that 37 percent of the bacteria in the Walmart samples were resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics—and nearly 10 percent were resistant to six classes.
Worryingly, the report found that 27 percent of the resistant bacteria in the Walmart samples would be unaffected by antibiotics categorized as "Highest Priority Critically Important Antimicrobials" (HPCIAs) by the World Health Organization (WHO). HPCIAs are antibiotics used when there are few or no alternatives to treat people with serious bacterial infections.
According to the report, antibiotic-resistant bacteria—commonly referred to as "superbugs"—pose a threat to "all human life." Meanwhile, the WHO recently described antimicrobial resistance as an "increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. every year, leading to the death of over 35,000 people. And a United Nations report concluded that by 2050, superbugs could kill 10 million people globally every year by 2050 if no action is taken to combat the problem.
However, the researchers say that not enough is being done to address the overuse of antibiotics, which is contributing to the rise of superbugs that can enter the food chain and environment.
One of the main drivers of this rise is that the drugs are vastly overused in animal agriculture.
"Seventy percent of the world's antibiotics are use on farmed animals," Alesia Soltanpanah, Executive Director of WAP U.S., told Newsweek. "And when you use antibiotics on farmed animals as a preventative rather than to treat the animal when it's sick, then it's an overuse of antibiotics.
"There has not been a great progress in the development of new antibiotics over the last 50 years," she said. "So we are not keeping up with the new bugs that keep cropping up, such as swine flu, etcetera."
Use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed and water is no longer allowed in the U.S., however, the drugs are still routinely used to prevent the spread of disease, especially in low-welfare standard factory farms where animals are kept confined in overcrowded environments.
The report notes that these kinds of farms provide the perfect conditions for infections to spread. Instead of providing a better environment for pigs and other animals, producers are overusing antibiotics to stop stressed or injured animals getting sick...
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