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Experts: Possible Farm to Locker Room Link for Staph Infection

October 31, 2008

Cleveland, OH - From farms to locker rooms, antibiotic-resistant staph infections are plaguing more athletes in Ohio, including the Cleveland Browns' Kellen Winslow.

Some studies have shown the increase of infections could be due to the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals that end up as regular parts of people's diets. Ellen Mee, director of environmental health programs for the Ohio Environmental Council, says the result is making some medicines less effective.

"I think most folks are not aware of how we are using antibiotics in livestock production and its potential to help the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant infections that affect humans."

Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in food animals has a domino effect - it contributes to increased risk of human illness, and increased healthcare costs. Director of the Pew Campaign for Human Health and Industrialized Farming, Karen Steuer adds that, over time, bacteria develop a resistance to the antibiotics given to animals.

"Those bacteria are flushed out, through the waste of a farm, into the water supply; they are picked up, and those bacteria are causing antibiotic-resistant infections."

Steuer says some farmers are already using what are termed "clean practices" to avoid this problem and reduce drug overuse. In the meantime, she warns, the antibiotic-resistant strains of staph are very dangerous.

"People stay sick much longer. We have to try a number of different courses of treatment, and we don't know if any of them, in some of these cases, are going to be successful."

Healthcare advocates are calling on Congress to improve oversight of drug use in industrial farm animals. Critics of the idea say the link between the infections and antibiotics in livestock has not yet been established by a definitive study. One source for more information about the issue is the Pew Campaign's Web site, at

Mary Kuhlman/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - OH