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The arrogance of ignorance

The issue of antibiotic resistance is very real and very serious.  By their nature, bacteria, when their existence is challenged, mutate to resist the challenge.  Antibiotics when used in human medicine or in agriculture present such a bacterial challenge so overuse in either sector leads to an increase in bacterial resistance and can render routine antimicrobial treatments ineffective. Research demonstrates and experts confirm the greatest overuse/misuse of antibiotics occurs in human medicine, either at the doctor’s office or in the hospital.  However, political attention, whether from Congress or activist groups, is focused like a laser on agriculture, yet none of the inflammatory rhetoric and allegations tossed around by on-farm antibiotic critics is directed at the human medical community.  I’ve yet to hear any politician advocate federal oversight of physicians’ prescription habits, nor even a whisper about regulating that authority.  It seems a doctor’s pledge to “voluntarily” cut back on over-prescription or inappropriate prescription of antibiotics is sufficient; doctors, can be trusted because, I guess, they’re doctors.  I had a former deputy commissioner of FDA – a pediatrician – say as much to me during a meeting on this issue when he questioned, “How do you know your farmers are doing what they say they’re doing?”  My response: “The same way you’re confident doctors who say they’re doing the right thing, in fact, are doing the right thing.”

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