Slaughter says new report bolsters case for action on antibiotics

A new inter-agency report on the threat from antibiotic resistance bolsters the case for Congress to restrict the use of antibiotics in agriculture, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said Thursday.

Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, this month reintroduced legislation to phase out the non-therapeutic use of certain antibiotics in food-producing animals. Some experts worry that using antibiotics on animals that aren't sick increases the risk of developing drug-resistant bacteria, creating a potential public health threat; many farmers and animal drug manufacturers however disagree about the link between antibiotic resistance and the animal farming industry.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration issued voluntary guidance suggesting excessive use of antibiotics to grow bigger poultry and livestock "poses a serious public health threat." The guidance calls for using antibiotics in food-producing animals only when needed to assure the animals' health — including prevention — and phasing in veterinary oversight or consultation in the use of these drugs.

The new report was made public a week after Slaughter requested the Department of Health and Human Services release it.

Among its findings: The U.S. has a "staggering" public health "burden" from the 90,000 or so annual invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.

"This report is an important step forward, but it alone will not protect us against this threat," Slaughter said in a statement Thursday. "I hope that the FDA will take these findings to heart and issue requirements that will begin to reduce the threat of superbugs."