A Scary New Superbug Is Here, Thanks to Animal Agriculture

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The threat of drug-resistant bacteria — also known as “superbugs” — is getting more serious by the day. Humans worldwide are at risk of falling prey to deadly microbes that are immune to antibiotics. So what’s fueling the rise in these terrifying infections? Reckless and rampant antibiotic use in animal agriculture.

In a piece titled “The Superbug That Doctors Have Been Dreading Just Reached the U.S.,” The Washington Post reports that a deadly strain of E. coli was recently found in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. This strain is resistant to colistin, a strong antibiotic. According to the article, “Colistin is the antibiotic of last resort for particularly dangerous types of superbugs, including a family of bacteria known as CRE, which health officials have dubbed ‘nightmare bacteria.’”

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? If we can’t rely on antibiotics, humans are in serious trouble. Life-saving treatments like cancer chemotherapy, organ transplants, and surgeries all rely on antibiotics for the prevention of infections.

The widespread use of antibiotics in farmed animals is making dangerous superbugs a very real threat. A whopping 80% of antibiotics in the U.S. are used on cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals. These drugs aid abnormally fast growth, and are used to stop the spread of disease caused by filthy, overcrowded factory farm conditions. As the CDC itself has said, “the use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world.”

If these trends continue, it’s estimated that antibiotic-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.  
Also according to the CDC, “Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.”

By continuing to force antibiotics into stressed, sick, and abused farm animals, we’re putting the world’s population at serious risk. While the Pennsylvania case was the first time the strain of colistin-resistant E. coli was discovered in the U.S., it was identified last year in pigs and raw pork (and in a small number of people) in China.

(And btw, cooking meat doesn’t necessarily protect against E. coli, either. Food researchers at the University of Alberta found that cooking beef at 160°F  — the level of heat treatment recommended by Health Canada and the USDA — doesn’t necessarily kill off those nasty bugs).

Want to know the what the way is to protect yourself, and the rest of the ever-growing population on this planet? Choose plant-based foods!  The more you leave animal products off your plate, the less you’re supporting the reckless overuse of antibiotics in factory farming and fueling the growth of superbugs.

Check out TryVeg.com for all kinds of plant-strong suggestions. Superfoods, not superbugs!

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