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Antibiotic Resistant Disease ESBL Killing People

  • Published: 2009-01-18 (Revised/Updated 2010-06-27) : Anne Wolski.
  • Synopsis: Health officials watch with apprehension as the antibiotic resistant bacteria ESBL continues to kill both people and pigs in Denmark.

Main Document

Health officials watch with apprehension as the antibiotic-resistant bacteria ESBL continues to kill both people and pigs in Denmark.

It is being spread to human beings from pigs and may be a result of the increased use of antibiotics being used in agriculture. This bacteria is believed to have been involved in an increased number of cancer and liver disease deaths. The number of infected patients jumped 50 percent last year.

So what is ESBL

It stands for Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase. These are enzymes that are created by some types of bacteria and make the bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

They were first discovered in the 1980s and were mainly found in the Klebsiella bacteria in the intensive care units of hospitals. Few people were affected at that time but as time advances, these mutated bacteria are becoming a major worry.

The British Health Protection Agency warns that a new class of EBSL has emerged. These are called CTX-M enzymes and are widely detected among E.Coli bacteria. They are resistant to penicillin and cephalosporin and are becoming quite common in urinary tract infections.

There are other types of bacteria that produce EBSLs and these include:

K. pneumoniae

K. oxytoca


Proteus mirabilis

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

In October of 2007, a study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This study concluded that there were almost 100,000 cases of invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus. They also concluded that 18,600 people died in the United States in 2006 as a result of aureus infections.

Antibiotic-resistant disease is a major man-made problem brought about by the overuse of antibiotics and the hygiene issues such as efficient hand-washing to control the spread of infectious diseases.

However, little has been said about the widespread overuse of antibiotics in the agricultural field and that is a leading source of human antibiotic consumption, thus increasing the resistance to antibiotics.

EBSLs are being traced back to animals raised for food production, especially pigs. They are commonly fed low doses of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease. This practice has resulted in providing the perfect environment for antibiotic resistance to thrive. So, the meat industry practice of using antibiotics is indeed a driving force behind the development of antibiotic resistance in a now wide variety of bacteria that cause human disease.

The FDA finally banned the use of fluoroquinolones, a widely used class of antimicrobials, from agricultural use August 1997. This created quite a controversy as companies that provided these antibiotics for agricultural use faced quite a loss financially.

Chicken is another meat that can be dangerous as a 2006 study showed that people who eat chicken can become resistant to Synercid which is a powerful antibiotic used in treating antibiotic resistant bacteria, thus causing a resistance in the last line of defense. It also found that it was rare to find resistant bacteria among antibiotic-free chicken, while the bulk of bacteria from conventional poultry were resistant.

However, meat isn't the only food that has bacteria that is antibiotic-resistant. Vegetables such as corn, lettuce, and potatoes have also been affected if planted in soil containing pig manure. Root crops such as carrots, radishes, and potatoes are particularly at risk of antibiotic accumulation.

So how can you ensure that the food you feed to yourself and your family is pure and healthy

Apart from growing your own food, your best option is to find a local farmer who uses non toxic farming methods. If you live in an urban area, look for a food source who accesses healthy, locally grown foods.Remember, "Natural" is best and organic superior.

Reference: Anne is a woman who has worked primarily within health and welfare for around 35 years. However, since she was only a child, she has loved to research and write on a wide variety of interests.

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