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CDC’s ‘Get Smart Week’ Aims to Outsmart Bacteria

November 17, 2010

SANTA FE, N. M. - Outsmarting the enemy will take a team effort. That's the message for the "Get Smart About Antibiotics" campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its goal is to educate the public, doctors, and the agriculture industry that antibiotics must be used more judiciously to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections.

Dr. Lauri Hicks, medical director for the project, says there is a new sense of urgency because resistant bacteria are spreading rapidly. The trend is connected to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, while the rate of new antibiotic discoveries has slowed almost to a halt in recent years.

"And what happens is now, common infections may be difficult to treat. When you really need an antibiotic, it may not work."

As an example of the problem, the CDC cites one type of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia, Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase, found in only one state in 2001, that has now spread to 35 states – including New Mexico.

Dr. Gail Hansen, a veterinarian and senior officer of the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, says getting farmers and ranchers to phase out the routine use of antibiotics for food animal production is just as urgent. She says an estimated 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used on industrial farms to help animals grow faster and stay healthy in crowded 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."

Those who support using antibiotics in food animal production claim there's no proof that antibiotic-resistant bacteria come from animals. But Hansen explains that drug resistance is a shared risk, just as effective antibiotics are a shared resource. She wants to see farmers and ranchers get assistance in changing production methods, to ensure that antibiotics are used only 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?"

Details of the CDC's campaign are online at www.cdc.gov/getsmart. Additional information about the issue is at www.SaveAntibiotics.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM