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Food Science

Study Finds Livestock Production Breeds Bad Bacterial Infection

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Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 6:48 AM

click to enlarge A pig enjoying a life far away from "high-density livestock production." - SNEAKERDOG/FLICKR
  • sneakerdog/flickr
  • A pig enjoying a life far away from "high-density livestock production."
Maybe this is case of science reinforcing logic, but researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have made a breakthrough: Living in close proximity to factory farms is bad for your health. Right. You and maybe some other animals.

According to the research, published in the Sept. 16 issue of the scintillating rag JAMA Internal Medicine, "high-density" livestock production in which animals (in the study, pigs) are fed antibiotics results in manure rife with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When this manure is used to fertilize crop fields, people living in the area are significantly more likely to enjoy a wicked, antibiotic-resistant staph infection. How charming.

As odd as it sounds, this is the first time scientists have discovered a clear link between this kind of livestock production and antibiotic-resistant infections. According to the article, "11 percent of community-acquired [antibiotic-resistant infections] and soft tissue infections in the study population could be attributed to crop fields fertilized with swine manure."

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that around 80% of the antibiotics produced in the United States are used in livestock production. The study happened in Pennsylvania focusing on nearly 450,000 residents between 2005 and 2010. In that state, circa 2007, there were nearly a million hogs on farms,with an average of several thousand at each.

In California, at around the same time, there were close to 200,000 hogs, with an average of 10,000 at each. We're living in the small-farmin', free-rangin' bread basket of America, but you have to wonder how much of that manure might come with an infection on the side.


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