Here at The Salt, we've been following the controversies that surround antibiotic use on the farm. Farmers give these drugs to chickens, swine and beef cattle, either to keep the animals healthy or to make them grow faster. Critics say it's contributing to an epidemic of drug-resistant bacteria not just on the farm, but among people, too.
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on that epidemic. For the first time, the agency came up with a ranking of the threats posed by different drug-resistance microbes, listing them as "urgent," "serious," and "concerning."
And where in this ranking did farm-related antibiotic resistance fall? Not at the top, certainly. According to the CDC, the most urgent threats are posed by antibiotic-resistant infections that have emerged in hospitals, as a result of heavy antibiotic use there. These include infections with Klebsiella and E.coli bacteria that are resistant to every known antibiotic, as well as drug-resistant gonorrhea.
"Right now, the most acute problem is in hospitals," said Tom Frieden, the CDC's director, in a conference call with reporters. "The most resistant organisms in hospitals are emerging in those settings because of poor anti-microbial stewardship among humans."