COLUMBUS (TDB) -- Pork production is a big business in Ohio, and environmental groups in the state have become concerned that hog farms are behind the recent and rapid spread of a lethal staph infection. The disease is MRSA, an infection that seems immune to common antibiotics. The Ohio Environmental Council says legislation is necessary to phase out the use of human antibiotics as animal feed additives. It plans to "pressure both state and federal officials" for action this year, and calls widespread use of antibiotics on hog farms a rising threat to human health:
"Researchers have linked transmission of a new strain of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA) to farmers, their families, veterinarians and hospital staff treating farm-infected patients. The heavy use of antibiotics in industrialized livestock operations contributes to the proliferation of anti-biotic resistant bacteria, resulting in 100,000 MRSA infections in the U.S., including 19,000 deaths, according to a 2005 study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Recognizing that identifying and controlling sources of MRSA is a public health urgency, the OEC [Ohio Environmental Council] has placed the issue at the top of our priority list for 2008. As Ohio organizer for the national Keep Antibiotics Working Coalition, the OEC is urging the U.S. Congress and the Food and Drug Administration to study the scourge of MRSA infections and deaths. As the state level, the OEC is establishing programs to educate policy makers and the public on the need for animal feed distributors to report on their use of antibiotic use in feed products."