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Ohio Patients, Doctors, and Farmers Urged to 'Get Smart' About Antibiotics

November 16, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Outsmarting the enemy will take a team effort. That's the message for the "Get Smart About Antibiotics" campaign from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which aims to educate the public, doctors, and agriculture that antibiotics need to be used more judiciously to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections.

Cuyahoga County Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan says there is a new sense of urgency, because resistant bacteria are spreading rapidly. They're connected to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, and the rate of new antibiotic discoveries has slowed almost to a halt.

"If we're using antibiotics indiscriminately and for every sniffle, we're inviting these bacteria to develop resistance and we'll be left down the road with very little protection available in our arsenal among antibiotics to fight these infections."

A type of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia (Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase), only found in one state in 2001, has now spread to 35 states, including Ohio.

Dr. Gail Hansen, veterinarian and senior officer with the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, says getting farmers and ranchers on board with using fewer routine antibiotics for food animal production is just as urgent. She adds that 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on industrial farms to help animals grow faster and stay healthy in crowded and unclean conditions.

"We've seen bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics, bacteria that are found predominantly in animals, that then get into our food supply and make people sick. That's happening."

Those who support using antibiotics in food animal production claim there's no proof that antibiotic-resistant bacteria come from animals. Dr. Hansen explains that proving origination isn't the point, because it's a shared risk, just as effective antibiotics are a shared resource. She wants to see farmers and ranchers get assistance in changing production methods, so that antibiotics are only used for medical reasons.

"We need to be looking forward to how do we come up with answers that more match what's being done on the farms today. What works on the farms? What doesn't work on the farms?"

CDC campaign details are at www.cdc.gov. Additional information is available at www.saveantibiotics.org

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH