Health group ‘superbugged’ by antibiotic misuse

A health group is renewing its push for stricter Food and Drug Administration regulations that would prohibit farmers from giving antibiotics to livestock to compensate for poor living conditions and help them grow faster. 

The group warns that antibiotics may be less effective on people who are sick because they are being overused on farm animals, which gives bacteria more opportunities to learn how to defeat the antibiotic, creating what is known as a “superbug.”

In fact, 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to livestock, rather than people, according to Food Policy Action.

"Each year, more than 20,000 people die and 2 million people are sickened as a result of infections resistant to antibiotics,” the group said.

More than 128,000 people have signed its petition calling for legislation that would prevent farmers from using antibiotics on their livestock for any purpose other than to treat a sick animal. 

This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned last month that antibiotics may no longer be effective enough to save lives in the near future if the government doesn't do something to fix the problem.

“Every day we delay it becomes harder and more expensive to fix this problem,” Director Thomas Frieden said.

Democrats are pushing the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act in the House and a similar bill in the Senate to end the large-scale use of antibiotics in livestock production. 

The health group says it would like these bills passed, but neither one has advanced beyond the committee level since they were introduced last year.

“These drugs should be used to treat illnesses, not to compensate for unsanitary conditions,” Food Policy Action wrote. “If we don’t take action, the steady stream of low-dose antibiotics in factory farms could create the next drug-resistant superbug.”