[FoRK] Top 5 charitable opportunities

Gordon Irlam gordonipub2 at gordoni.com
Sun Apr 24 23:28:39 PDT 2011

Thanks for your constructive comments Stephen.

>> #2 Getting antibiotics out of animal feed
>> -----------------------------------------

> Where'd you get that number?  Wikipedia and the New York Times article
> linked says:
>> In the United States
>> <https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/United_States>, the Centers
>> for Disease Control and Prevention
>> <https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Centers_for_Disease_Control_and_Prevention>
>> estimate that roughly 1.7 million hospital-associated infections, from all
>> types of microorganisms
>> <https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Microorganism>, including
>> bacteria <https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Bacteria>,
>> combined, cause or contribute to 99,000 deaths each year.

You are correct I had the number for MRSA and all microorganisms confused.

> That is for all types of infections, of which MRSA is just the most
> well-publicized.  Also, most of the MRSA numbers are from 2002 or 2005,
> before it was much recognized or specifically handled.  What are the numbers
> for 2010?

I can't find any numbers for 2010.  The best I can offer is 5,500 MRSA
deaths/yr for 1999-2005 in the U.S..

> Neither Wikipedia or the New York Times article mentioned animals
> or animal antibiotics once.

I think it isn't mentioned because while it seems quite plausable, the
animal feed to human antibiotic resistance link isn't proven.

For NYT coverage where the risk is mentioned see:

"Now, after decades of debate, the Food and Drug Administration
appears poised to issue its strongest guidelines on animal antibiotics
yet, intended to reduce what it calls a clear risk to human health.
The guidelines, which are voluntary and will not have the binding
force of regulations, would end farm uses of the drugs simply to
promote faster animal growth and call for tighter oversight by

> While it is a risk, it is not likely to be much
> of a problem and not likely to be causing much or any of our current
> problems.  For one thing, that path would only apply for organisms that are
> active for both cows and humans.

I think because of the way bacteria can exchange resistance genes
(very promiscuously via independent genetic elements called plasmids),
once a resistance gene exists in one species, it can rapidly migrate
to other species.

Second 80% of antibiotics used in this country are getting used on
animals, so if resistance is getting bred, it is likely to take place
in animals first.

Third low doses of antibiotics are used in animal feed, which sounds
like just the right recipe to breed antibiotic resistance.

And fourth antibiotic resistant bacteria have been shown to be present
on flies collected near poultry feeding areas, showing a route all of
this could be transmitted to humans:

> You could probably have a far larger effect through faster quarantine of
> sick people, encouraging less travel / meeting and more virtual meetings
> (Skype or higher quality methods).  Immediately switch to virtual schooling
> when a school has an outbreak, as schools probably account for over half of
> infections in the US.

Yes, this would be good, but I suspect expensive, and so from a cost
benefit perspective lower priority.

> Besides reducing the incidence of infection and using antibiotics less, we
> need more research to understand, detect, and find new ways to combat
> infections.  We're on the path to assembling custom agents on the fly.

Yes, using antibiotics less is important.  With the bulk of
antibiotics going to animal feed, I suspect that is probably where we
need to start.


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