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Seeking Alternatives to Livestock Antibiotics

PHOTO: A North Carolina company, Clearstream LLC, makes bacteria-killing products that it says might help livestock producers, similar to the way they are now used on cruise ships and in schools. Photo courtesy Clearstream LLC
PHOTO: A North Carolina company, Clearstream LLC, makes bacteria-killing products that it says might help livestock producers, similar to the way they are now used on cruise ships and in schools. Photo courtesy Clearstream LLC
June 11, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas's livestock farms - including poultry and swine producers - soon will have to look for other means to keep meat free of disease.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has asked pharmaceutical companies to limit the availability of some antibiotics to farmers because of concerns about promoting antibiotic resistance.

Barrett Slenning, a professor at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said the increasing use of antibiotics has affected the natural development of bacteria over time.

"We are kind of pushing our thumb on the scale, changing that battle, because we can now manufacture these compounds and use them," he said, "and so we're going to be potentially affecting the environment."

Slenning said he still believes human overuse of antibiotics, not livestock, is the biggest threat to the spread of diseases such as MRSA. He added that the MRSA strains often found in livestock are different than those found in humans.

One company in the Southeast has created a treatment that can kill the source of bacteria when applied to an environment. While not in use by farms, products from Clearstream are used in medical facilities, schools and even on cruise ships. Tony Daddona, chief operating officer at Clearstream, said it might provide a healthy livestock alternative.

"Antibiotics are a Band-Aid in every situation," Daddona said. "So, what we try to do is go to the source of the bacteria, before it's ingested into their bodies."

The FDA is recommending veterinary oversight of antibiotic use in livestock farming. In a recent study, Johns Hopkins University found a connection between factory farms and MRSA, particularly in communities with swine-production facilities such as those in Arkansas.

"You're starting to see more and more community-acquired infections taking place with people that normally would not have been exposed to it," said Jim Praechtl, chief executive of Clearstream. "It isn't like these people all made trips to the hospital and came back out with MRSA."

Some farmers say they are seeing results from giving animals more space, changing their diets and keep their living areas cleaner as part of the solution.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR