ecoglobe [yinyang] news (11 October 1999)

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Resistant Bugs Linked to Animal Antibiotics

    EXCESSIVE use of antibiotics in pigs and poultry is being blamed for outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" in New Zealand hospitals.

    Canterbury Health medical adviser George Downward said though the organisms in animals and humans were usually quite different there was a crossover.

    "The bacterium can end up in the water which humans drink, for instance. Excessive use of antibiotics across all sectors is definitively an issue."

    Dr. Downward, who is a clinical director of the intensive care unit at Christchurch Hospital, was responding to calls for an end to the abuse of antibiotics in the pig and poultry industries.

    A medical seminar in Washington this weekend had also focused on the alarming spread of drugs drug resistant bacteria in American hospitals. Blame was placed firmly on doctors for massively overprescribing antibiotics and on farmers for using for using antibiotics to help fatten animals.

    Of 150 million prescriptions written in the United States each year, one third were unnecessary. There was evidence that resistant bacteria could be transferred from animals to humans. The United States Food and Drag Administration is reported to be considering restricting the use of antibiotics in animal feed.

    Dr Downward said problems with the antibiotic superbug were not as prevalent in New Zealand as they were in the northern hemisphere.

    A superbug has been implicated in the deaths of seven patients at Christchurch Hospital, two in the last month. The bacterium acinobacter was identified in their blood.

    Wellington Hospital is reported to have identified 15 cases of a potentially deadly superbug in the past two months. Three patients have been infected with methicillin-resistant staphylococus aureus or MRSA. And Auckland's Middlemore Hospital said yesterday that a "superbug" had contributed to at least two patient deaths.

    Green Party spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said a recent British Government report confirmed the growth of drug-resistant superbugs in humans related directly to the over-use of antibiotics that make farm animals grow faster. A New Zealand report on the topic is due out this month.

    Ms Kedgley said scientists had been advising for years that antibiotic resistance would be one of the greatest health problems confronting humanity in the 21st century.

    "It is putting the long-term health of all New Zealanders at risk and the government must move to ban the use of antibiotic growth promotants."

    An antibiotic growth promotant, avoparcin, that is fed continuously to healthy New Zealand chickens and pigs to make them grow more quickly, has been banned in Europe after research showed its overuse was behind the emergence of bacteria resistant to vancomycin. This drug is used as a last resort to treat serious infections such as those caused by MRSA.

    Ms Kedgley said it was known that 60 million chickens were given antibiotic growth promotants and most of New Zealand's 80 million pigs were fed antibiotics.

    Meanwhile. cases of patients with acinetobacter still cropped up at Middlemore occasionally, Selwyn Lang, an infectious diseases physician, said yesterday. The strain was identical to that found in 16 patients of the intensive care unit in an outbreak earlier this year but different from the one affecting Christchurch Hospital. --NZPA

[Article transcribed from The Dominion, 11 October 1999, page 7.]

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **
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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (11 October 1999)

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