90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Are Antibiotics In Our Meat Breeding Superbugs?

Antibiotics and the meat we eat. The volumes are huge. Maybe breeding superbugs. We look for a better way.

Cattle is kept in pens at a feedlot southwest of Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. (AP)

Cattle is kept in pens at a feedlot southwest of Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. (AP)

Everybody knows the basic issue with antibiotics. Overuse them, or casually use them, and you undercut the miraculous effectiveness of one of the most important classes of drugs humans have ever found.

Now here’s a shocker: today, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for animals. For livestock. For feed. The meat we eat is overwhelmingly produced in a factory farm system that floats on massive use of antibiotics. Now farms are producing the antibiotic-resistant superbugs that kill.

This hour, On Point: meat, antibiotics, and us.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Rep. Louise Slaughter, Democratic U.S. Representative for New York’s 25th district. (@louiseslaughter)

Listen to Rep. Slaughter’s segment of the interview here.

Mike Apley, veterinarian and researcher at Kansas State University.

Lance Price, professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University.

Stephen McDonnell, founder and CEO of Applegate, a producer of organic and natural meats. (@applegateceo)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration systematically monitor the meat and poultry sold in supermarkets around the country for the presence of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. These food products are bellwethers that tell us how bad the crisis of antibiotic resistance is getting. And they’re telling us it’s getting worse.”

Wired “It is difficult to imagine a study design that could trace specific animals, their meat, and their eaters in a large group of free-living humans; and unless you have volunteers, as Levy did, the study would push ethical boundaries as well. But having that lack of definition in the middle of the animal-to-human bacterial flow permits uncertainty — which proponents of continued ag antibiotic use exploit. A new study of Danish farmers and their livestock may have ended that uncertainty. It is still retrospective, but its observations — using whole-genome sequencing — are so fine-grained that their tracing of the bacterial traffic seems to me to be difficult to challenge.”

EMBO Molecular Medicine “We investigated the molecular epidemiology of these livestock-associated mecC-MRSA cases using WGS. Phylogenetic analysis across the entire core genome revealed that the isolates from these cases form two distinct, farm-specific clusters comprising near identical isolates from the human case and from livestock on that farm. Within each cluster, the human and animal isolates only differed by a small number of SNPs, which supports the premise of zoonotic transmission. In-depth genome analysis identified a number of candidate genes and mutations that may be associated with host–pathogen interactions and virulence of this emerging MRSA clone.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Nov 25, 2014
A protester squirts lighter fluid on a police car as the car windows are shuttered near the Ferguson Police Department after the announcement of the grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

Grand Jury decision out of Ferguson — no indictment. We’re on the ground with the latest details and reaction.

Nov 25, 2014
A 40-pound tom turkey looks out at Raymond's Turkey Farm in Methuen, Mass., Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. The farm raises approximately 20,000 Broad Breasted White Holland turkeys per year. (AP)

We’ll talk turkey and all the sides. Top chefs join us to answer your Thanksgiving questions.

RECENT
SHOWS
Nov 24, 2014
Homeless people stay with their belongings under the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass in New Orleans, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. The city’s health department put up notices Monday giving the estimated 150 homeless people 72 hours to leave the area. (AP)

Smashing the assumptions about what it’s really like to live in poverty in America.

 
Nov 24, 2014
In this photo taken Wednesday, July 30, 2014, Silicon Valley pioneer and Silent Circle co-founder Jon Callas holds up Blackphone with encryption apps displayed on it at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.  (AP)

We’ll look at privacy, security, and the battle heating up between intelligence agencies and tech companies that are moving to encrypt your communication.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Last-Minute Thanksgiving Luxury
Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014

Our three Thanksgiving chefs offer up their best bets for delicious, last-minute holiday helpers, including a crunchy celery salad and maple glazed carrots.

More »
Comment
 
Calling All Interns, Calling All Interns
Monday, Nov 24, 2014

Have you ever thought about interning with On Point Radio? Good news: your time is now!

More »
Comment
 
The Explicast, Episode Six: What Does A White House Press Correspondent Do?
Friday, Nov 21, 2014

We turn to White House Press Correspondents all the time for news, but we’ve never really wondered how they gather their information. Fortunately, our guest host Jessica Yellin had time to sit down with The Explicast to explain.

More »
Comment