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OH Health Leaders Back Measure to Take Antibiotics off the Farm

June 8, 2009

Columbus, OH - Dozens of Ohio health leaders have signed a letter being delivered to the state's Congressional delegation to show their support of PAMTA, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. The legislation would prohibit the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in healthy livestock.

The director of environmental health policy for the Pew Environment Group, Ellen Mee, says the overuse of antibiotics in farmed animals can create bacteria that are too potent to be treated and can make humans deathly ill.

"Sub-therapeutic doses used over time is the best way to create resistant bacteria. We really do have to be concerned about the overall impact of these large numbers of antibiotics being used in this way."

Mahoning County Health Commissioner Matthew Stefanak is among those who signed the letter.

"It's important for public health officials to raise concerns about the use of agricultural antibiotics, because their indiscriminate use will ultimately increase the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant infections in the human population."

Stefanak adds that the situation will only get worse because a new class of antibiotics hasn't been introduced for human use in years.

"We run the risk of running out of antibiotics to treat some of these drug-resistant infections, and that would signal a return to the pre-antibiotic days when infections simply had to run their course or kill their victims."

Supporters of the use say human antibiotics are routinely fed to an entire herd to promote growth and ward off illness, but opponents of such use of the drugs say it's actually done to compensate for overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

The letter will be delivered to members of Ohio's Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. Versions of the act are under consideration in both the House and Senate.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH