It's not just for chickens, cattle and pigs anymore...

The New York Times today has an article about Chile's salmon production industry, which is the second largest in the world. What does this have to do with infections you might ask? Well, it's about the abuse of antibiotics by the salmon industry, just like that which is occurring in other types of food animal production. And it occurs for the same reason as it does in nonaquatic agribusiness--the animals are kept in extremely crowded conditions, which increases the transmission of infectious diseases, and so antibiotics are added to the food (in this case poured directly into the water in which the fish swim) in an attempt to keep them healthy. In this way, antibiotics enter the human food supply and eventually lead to antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. For example, in Europe vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) in humans can be traced to the use of the antibiotic avoparcin in animal feed. Avoparcin is a glycopeptide antibiotic, the same family of antibiotics to which vancomycin belongs. So when the bacteria colonizing the animals who ate the antibiotic-treated food became avoparcin-resistant they were likewise vancomycin-resistant. Back to the salmon--Chile dumped 718,000 pounds of antibiotics in the salmon's water last year. To put that into perspective, by my calculations, that's equivalent to the amount of antibiotics that could treat 23 million adults each for 10 days.


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