Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act sponsored by Rules Committee Ranking Member Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) that would reauthorize funding for the study of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria through 2018.
Since 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has funded important research on antibiotic resistant bacteria in agriculture and the development of strategies to mitigate them. For example, the Department has funded the development of vaccines and probiotics that reduce the need for antibiotics in agriculture, tracking the transmission of dangerous and antibiotic resistant bacteria in agriculture, and the development of strategies for mitigating antibiotic resistance in food-animal production systems.
Passage of this critical amendment accompanies an uptick in public attention on the growing antibiotic resistance crisis. Earlier this month, a front-page New York Times storydetailed the crisis, and this week, G8 leaders raised the issue at the international conference.
"Protecting the public's health is one of the greatest responsibilities of government, and it is time for Congress to stand with scientists and do something to stop the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria," Rep. Slaughter said. "We are throwing away the greatest scientific advancement of the 20th century on healthy animals and in the process creating a massive public health emergency. Unless we act now to research and develop better surveillance and strategies to reduce the use of antibiotics in agriculture, we will do irreparable damage to our ability to fight disease and protect the health of our fellow Americans.
Rep. Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, is the author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would prevent eight classes of antibiotics from being used on healthy food-animals. Currently, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for agricultural use. Most often, these antibiotics are distributed at sub-therapeutic levels to healthy animals as a way to compensate for crowded and unsanitary living conditions and to promote growth. As a result, the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria has accelerated, to the point where Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) now kills more Americans than HIV/AIDS.
"I am proud to join Rep. Slaughter in offering an amendment that will study the overuse of antibiotics in healthy farmed animals," said Rep. Polis. "We offered this amendment because the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria is already threatening our health, in large part due to the overuse of antibiotics in farmed animals. Antibiotics have an appropriate role in treating sick animals and humans, but their overuse risks leading to the rise of even more dangerous bacteria strains."