Majority of Supermarket Meats Are Still Riddled With Superbugs

Story at-a-glance

  • Despite strong warnings about the promotion of antibiotic-resistance, 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are still given to livestock — not to treat acute infections but as a preventive measure, and as a growth promoter
  • When antibiotics are given, any bacteria that survive are now stronger and can more readily evade the drug the next time around
  • Tests conducted in 2017 on antibiotic-resistant bacterial samples collected from hospitals and nursing homes in 27 states revealed 1 in 4 samples contained genes known to confer drug resistance
  • Syphilis and gonorrhea are developing multidrug resistance. Drug-resistant UTIs are also on the rise, and antibiotic-resistant UTIs have been directly linked to the consumption of contaminated chicken meat
  • Eighty-three percent of supermarket meats are contaminated with fecal bacteria, and a high percentage of them were antibiotic-resistant. Chicken is particularly prone to contamination with not just drug-resistant bacteria but also other dangerous pathogens linked to lethal food poisoning

By Dr. Mercola

For a number of years now, researchers have warned we are headed toward a post-antibiotic world — a world in which infections that used to be easily treatable become death sentences as they can no longer be touched by available drugs. As reported by NPR July 2, 2018:1

”A woman in Nevada dies from a bacterial infection that was resistant to 26 different antibiotics. A U.K. patient contracts a case of multidrug-resistant gonorrhea never seen before. A typhoid superbug kills hundreds in Pakistan. These stories from recent years — and many others — raise fears about the possibility of a post-antibiotic world.”

In the video above, NPR explains how antibiotic resistance develops, and what can be done to stem the swelling tide of drug-resistant infections. Importantly, misuse and overuse must be reined in. Despite strong warnings, about 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are still given to livestock — not to treat acute infections but as a preventive measure, and as a growth promoter. This routine low-dose administration is a most dangerous practice, as it primes bacteria for resistance.

As explained in the video, when antibiotics are given, any bacteria that survive are now stronger and can more readily evade the drug the next time around. This is also why, when you’re given a course of antibiotics for an infection, the instructions will tell you to take the full course and not stop early. It’s important to eradicate all the bacteria before stopping, or else you risk developing an even harder-to-treat infection as surviving bacteria will have developed hardier resistance.

Highly Resistant Bacteria Are on the Move

Tests conducted in 2017 on nearly 5,780 antibiotic-resistant bacterial samples collected from hospitals and nursing homes revealed 1 in 4 samples contained genes known to confer drug resistance, and 221 of them, collected from 27 states, contained a particularly rare drug-resistance gene that confers a very high level of resistance.2,3

This hardy resistance gene was found in a number of different types of infections, including pneumonia, bloodstream infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Disturbingly, follow-up screening showed nearly 1 in 10 asymptomatic contacts tested positive for drug-resistant bacteria carrying this rare gene, which means it can, and likely has, spread to other patients who have come into contact with an infected individual.

The emergence and rapid spread of this new drug resistance gene is deeply troubling, as it can cause untreatable infections where supportive care is the only option.4 With intravenous fluids, you may recover as long as your immune system is strong enough. If your immune function is weak, the infection could turn lethal. It’s hard to fathom a situation where people are routinely dying from UTIs and pneumonia — both of which have for decades been easily treatable with antibiotics — but that’s where we’re headed.

Drug-resistant sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also on the rise, making STD infection a very serious concern, especially as prevalence has also sharply increased in recent years. In California, STD prevalence has increased by 45 percent in the past five years alone.5,6,7

Gonorrhea, Syphilis and UTIs Becoming Increasingly Resistant to Treatment

There’s now evidence showing syphilis and gonorrhea are developing pan-resistance, meaning they’re impervious to several different antibiotics. Drug-resistant UTIs are also on the rise, and the spread of antibiotic-resistant UTIs has been directly linked to the consumption of chicken meat contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria.

Syphilis has developed resistance against azithromycin, the second drug of choice for this infection,8 and recent research9 shows both of the two main strains of syphilis have developed drug resistance. The Street Strain 14 (SS14), which is a newer strain, appears to be far more drug-resistant than the older Nichols strain.

A whopping 90 percent of the SS14 samples had drug resistance genes. The number of babies born infected with syphilis contracted from their mother has also quadrupled and, with it, stillbirths have spiked as well.10

Gonorrhea is now resistant to all antibiotics that have been used against it — including penicillin, tetracycline and fluoroquinolone antibiotics — and is rapidly developing resistance against cephalosporins, the drug of last resort. Resistance to cefixime and ceftriaxone has already been reported in more than 50 countries.

As noted by Dr. Teodora Wi, medical officer of human reproduction at the World Health Organization (WHO),11 “The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them.” In 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated about one-third of gonorrhea cases were resistant to at least one antibiotic. Between 2013 and 2014, cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea suddenly doubled.12

A form of E. coli known as extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli or ExPEC is responsible for over 90 percent of UTIs,13 and DNA matching reveals many are caused by eating contaminated poultry.14,15,16,17 In other words, many UTIs are caused not through sexual contact with an infected partner but by zoonosis, meaning animal to human disease transfer.18,19,20 As early as 2005 papers were published showing drug-resistant E. coli strains from supermarket meat matched strains found in human E. coli infections.21

Of the 8 million UTIs occurring in the U.S. each year, an estimated 10 percent are resistant to antibiotics, making them life-threatening occurrences as the bacteria can travel from the bladder into your kidneys and onward into your bloodstream. Drug resistance has become common enough that doctors are now advised to test for drug resistance before prescribing an antibiotic for a UTI.

8 in 10 Supermarket Meats Are Contaminated With Fecal Bacteria, Many of Which are Antibiotic-Resistant

For a number of years now, tests have revealed meats are a source of drug-resistant bacteria, with factory farmed meats having the highest levels of contamination. This includes pork, beef and poultry. According to a 2017 report by the CDC, 22 percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is linked to consumption of contaminated foods, and tests have shown ground beef from animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is three times more likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria than grass fed beef.22

This really is no surprise, since overuse of antibiotics in livestock is the primary driver of antibiotic resistance, and CAFOs routinely use antibiotics.23 Most recently, an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of food testing done by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015 reveals 83 percent of supermarket meats were contaminated with enterococcus faecalis (fecal bacteria), and a high percentage of them had antibiotic-resistant bacteria:24,25

79 percent of ground turkey samples were contaminated with drug-resistant enterococcus faecalis, 87 percent of which were resistant to tetracyclines, antibiotics deemed “highly important” by WHO, used in human medicine to treat bronchitis, pneumonia and UTIs; 73 percent of the salmonella found on ground turkey was antibiotic-resistant salmonella

71 percent of pork chops were contaminated with drug-resistant enterococcus faecalis, 84 percent of which were resistant to tetracyclines

62 percent of ground beef samples were contaminated with drug-resistant enterococcus faecalis, 26 percent of which were resistant to tetracyclines. One reason for the high contamination rate of ground beef has to do with the fact that it’s a mix of meat from thousands of animals.26 A single animal with drug-resistant bacteria can therefore contaminate large batches of meat

36 percent of chicken breasts, legs, thighs and wings were contaminated with drug-resistant enterococcus faecalis, 71 percent of which were resistant to tetracyclines; 1 in 5 strains of salmonella was resistant to amoxicillin, a type of penicillin, which as a class is designated as “critically important” in human medicine. Amoxicillin is the No. 1 antibiotic prescribed to children in the U.S.

Chicken Has Been Consistently Prone to High Levels of Bacterial Contamination

Over the years, food testing has shown that chicken is particularly prone to contamination with not just antibiotic-resistant bacteria but also other dangerous pathogens. Consumer report testing in 2007 found 80 percent of whole chicken broilers harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter,27 two of the leading causes of foodborne illness.

Retesting in 2010 revealed a modest improvement, with “only” two-thirds being contaminated with these disease-causing bacteria. Just 34 percent of the broilers tested clear of these two pathogens. The improvement didn’t last long.

In 2013, Consumer Reports28 found potentially harmful bacteria on 97 percent of the chicken breasts tested, and half of them had at least one type of bacteria that was resistant to three or more antibiotics. Salmonella contamination is of particular concern, as data suggests multidrug-resistant salmonella has become particularly prevalent.

And raw chicken has become a notorious carrier of salmonella, campylobacter, clostridium perfigens and listeria bacteria.29 Contaminated chicken and turkey also cause the most deaths from food poisoning.30

How to Protect Yourself Against Foodborne Drug-Resistant Pathogens

According to the EWG:

“Of the 14 antibiotics the FDA tested in 2014, salmonella had developed resistance genes to 13. E. coli developed resistance to all of them. This is concerning because the gene for resistance to an antibiotic — for example, tetracycline — can be passed from a resistant enterococcus indicator bacteria to a neighboring pathogenic salmonella bacteria, creating a resistant infection.

Currently, the FDA analyzes resistance trends in bacteria only for ‘combinations of medical importance,’ burying its head in the sand when it comes to how resistance spreads among bacteria.

We believe that bacterial resistance to a single antibiotic is superbug enough, and consumers shouldn’t have to wait for widespread, multiple-drug resistance and untreatable bacterial infections for the FDA to protect them. Now is the time for the federal government to get medically important antibiotics out of factory farms.”

In the meantime, what can you do to protect your health and that of your family? One obvious answer is to seek out the safest meat sources you can find. Your best bet is to buy directly from farmers who use antibiotics judiciously or not at all. Other tips include:

  • If you buy meat in the grocery store, become a savvy label reader. Topping the EWG’s list of “most reliable” meat labels is the American Grassfed Association’s grass fed label.31 Labels to be wary of include “no antibiotic residues,” “antibiotic free,” “no antibiotic growth promotants” and “natural,” as none fully reveal a company’s use of antibiotics.
  • Store meats away from fresh produce, thaw in the fridge rather than on the counter and avoid washing meats as this merely spreads bacteria around your sink and kitchen. Always cook meats thoroughly.
  • Avoid buying raw chicken as the risk of it spreading dangerous bacteria around your kitchen and cross-contaminating other foods is extremely high.
  • When eating out, ask if the meat was raised with antibiotics. Beef would probably be a safer bet than chicken, even if it’s not grass fed, just for the fact that chicken is so prone to so many different kinds of bacterial contamination, including foodborne pathogens and drug-resistant ones.

Ignorant Companies Like Sanderson Risk Human Health

A number of poultry producers have taken steps to cut down or eliminate antibiotics from their production, including Perdue, Tyson,32 Pilgrim’s Pride and Foster Farms. Perdue — which started cutting back on antibiotics in 2002 — clearly shows that meat can be profitably mass-produced without the use of antibiotics. The company also demonstrates that eliminating antibiotics can make the meat safer.

Perdue received the highest safety score in the 2010 Consumer Reports test33 mentioned earlier, which checked for the presence of salmonella and campylobacter in commercial chicken meat.

Fifty-six percent of Perdue’s chickens were free of both pathogens at that time, while 80 percent of Tyson and Foster Farms’ chickens tested positive for one or both bacteria. (Organic store brand chickens had no salmonella at all, but 57 percent still harbored campylobacter.) Even back then, Perdue’s exemplary success was attributed to its more stringent policies on antibiotics.

The only company that has refused to take any measures to curb their antibiotic use whatsoever is Sanderson Farms.34 Remarkably, the company decided to go public with its decision to continue using antibiotics instead, calling public health concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria “overblown,”35 claiming the antibiotic-free chicken trend is nothing but a marketing ploy devised to justify higher prices, and that not using antibiotics would be inhumane to the chickens.36

According to Lampkin Butts, president and chief operating officer of Sanderson Farms, “There is not any credible science that leads us to believe we’re causing antibiotic resistance in humans.”37 This stance is not only ignorant but also dangerous, and flies in the face of science. If you cause antibiotic resistance to develop in the animals, you’re inevitably causing it in humans. Literally millions of lives are at stake if we do not put an end to agricultural antibiotics.

Sanderson also tries to confuse people by pointing out that no commercially sold chicken, whether treated with antibiotics or not, will contain antibiotics by the time you buy it since the antibiotics must be stopped in time before slaughter in order to ensure the drugs are no longer in the animals’ system. However, this really doesn’t address the actual concerns about antibiotic use in chickens, because even if the antibiotics are no longer present in the chicken, the resistant bacteria ARE, and they are the primary problem.

The good news is that investors are now starting to apply pressure, urging Sanderson Farms to reconsider their use of antibiotics. According to Reuters,38 a proposal to end the use of medically important antibiotics for disease prevention in chickens “received the support of 43 percent of votes cast at the company’s annual meeting,” held February 15, 2018. That’s 13 percent higher than a similar proposal presented in 2017, when only 30 percent of investors voted to end the company’s use of antibiotics.

Strategies to Protect Yourself and Limit Spread of Drug-Resistant Bacteria

While the problem of antibiotic resistance needs to be stemmed through public policy on a nationwide level, the more people who get involved on a personal level, the better. On an individual level, you can help minimize the problem by focusing on:

Infection prevention, with a focus on strengthening your immune system naturally. Avoiding sugars, processed foods and grains, promoting stress reduction and optimizing your sleep and vitamin D level are foundational for this. Adding in traditionally fermented and cultured foods is also important, as this will help optimize your microbiome.
Limiting your use of antibiotics. Any time your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, ask if it’s absolutely necessary, and keep in mind that antibiotics do not work for viral infections. For example, antibiotics are typically unnecessary for most ear infections, and they do not work on the common cold or flu, both of which are caused by viruses.
Avoiding antibiotics in food by purchasing organic or biodynamic grass fed meats and animal products.
Avoiding antibacterial household products such as antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers and wipes, as these promote antibiotic resistance by allowing the strongest bacteria to survive and thrive in your home.
Properly washing your hands with warm water and plain soap, to prevent the spread of bacteria. Be particularly mindful of washing your hands and kitchen surfaces after handling raw meats, as about half of all meat sold in American grocery stores is likely to be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. Avoid antibiotic soaps that typically have dangerous chemicals like triclosan.
Common-sense precautions in the kitchen: Kitchens are notorious breeding grounds for disease-causing bacteria, courtesy of contaminated meat products, including antibiotic-resistant strains of E-coli. To avoid cross-contamination between foods in your kitchen, adhere to the following recommendations:

Use a designated cutting board, preferably wood, not plastic, for raw meat and poultry, and never use this board for other food preparation, such as cutting up vegetables. Color coding your cutting boards is a simple way to distinguish between them

To sanitize your cutting board, use hot water and detergent. Simply wiping it off with a rag will not destroy the bacteria

For an inexpensive, safe and effective kitchen counter and cutting board sanitizer, use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Keep each liquid in a separate spray bottle, and then spray the surface with one, followed by the other, and wipe off

Coconut oil can also be used to clean, treat and sanitize your wooden cutting boards. It’s loaded with lauric acid that has potent antimicrobial actions. The fats will also help condition the wood

Natural Immune Boosters

For most infections, antibiotics are unnecessary. There are a number of different plants and natural remedies you can use to fight infections, and contrary to antibiotic drugs, these do not promote the development of drug resistance. Natural compounds with antimicrobial activity include:

Garlic Cinnamon Oregano extract Colloidal silver
Manuka honey (Clinical trials have found that Manuka honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria, including some resistant varieties, including MRSA)

‘Forgotten’ antibiotic offers hope against worst superbugs

New antifungal provides hope in fight against superbugs

Supercharged antibiotics could turn tide against superbugs

Online pharmacies illegally handing out antibiotics are fuelling rise of superbugs

Antibiotics are a prescription-only drug in the UK 

Online pharmacies are fuelling the rise of drug-resistant superbugs by handing out antibiotics without asking for a prescription, an investigation has found.

A study by Imperial College London found evidence suggesting that nearly half of online-only pharmacies are selling the drugs illegally, with eight in 10 letting customers choose the size of the their dosages.

These findings are a real concern, and raise several important issues regarding antibiotic resistance and patient safety with online pharmaciesDr Sara Boyd, Imperial College London

Inappropriate use of antibiotics is prompting an increase in the number of pathogens which are immune to the drugs, leading to a warning last year that antimicrobial resistance could return medicine to the “dark ages” and kill tens of millions of people.

Dr Sara Boyd, co-author of the NHS-backed study, said: “These findings are a real concern, and raise several important issues regarding antibiotic resistance and patient safety with online pharmacies.”

Her research team analysed 20 pharmacies that were available for UK consumers to access online, and found 75 per cent appeared not to be legally registered.

Meanwhile only 30 per cent of the websites asked customers to complete a health questionnaire prior to dispensing drugs, the study found.

All online medicine vendors selling to UK consumers must by law register with both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the General Pharmaceutical Council.

The research is published in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Scientists just announced our best shot at ending antibiotic resistance to date

A molecule that reverses antibiotic resistance.

Scientists have developed a molecule that reverses antibiotic resistance in multiple strains of bacteria at once, making it one of the most promising advances we’ve had to date in the fight against superbugs.

The announcement couldn’t come at a better time – in the past week, researchers have reported that a US woman was killed by a superbug resistant to every available antibiotic, and that antibiotic resistance is now spreading faster and more stealthily than they’d expected. In the war against superbugs, we’re currently losing.

 Even public health officials, known for their ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach to emerging health threats, are quietly freaking out. A report in 2014 predicted that superbugs will kill 300 million people by 2050, and the United Nations has declared the issue a “fundamental threat“.

The problem is that bacterial infections we’ve easily been able to deal with in the past, such as pneumonia, E. coli, and gonorrhoea, are rapidly evolving the ability to survive our antibiotics. Unless we come up with some new drug options soon, we’re going to very quickly run out of ways to protect ourselves.

“We’ve lost the ability to use many of our mainstream antibiotics,” said lead researcher Bruce Geller from Oregon State University.

“Everything’s resistant to them now. That’s left us to try to develop new drugs to stay one step ahead of the bacteria, but the more we look the more we don’t find anything new,” he added.

“So that’s left us with making modifications to existing antibiotics, but as soon as you make a chemical change, the bugs mutate and now they’re resistant to the new, chemically modified antibiotic.”

One of the ways that bacteria spread antibiotic resistance is through a gene that produces an enzyme known as New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1).

 NDM-1 is so worrying, because it makes bacteria resistant to a class of penicillins called carbapenems – better known as our ‘last resort’ drugs. Thanks to NDM-1, that last resort is quickly failing.

“The significance of NDM-1 is that it is destroys carbapenems, so doctors have had to pull out an antibiotic, colistin, that hadn’t been used in decades because it’s toxic to the kidneys,” said Geller.

“That is literally the last antibiotic that can be used on an NDM-1-expressing organism, and we now have bacteria that are completely resistant to all known antibiotics.”

To try to fight this, Geller and his colleagues have created a molecule that attacks NDM-1, and reverses antibiotic resistance in many different strains of bacteria – meaning it could give us the chance to use antibiotics again which are currently useless.

The molecule is a type of PPMO, which stands for peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer, and it disables NDM-1.

Previously, researchers had tried to use naturally-occurring PPMOs against superbugs, but they only worked on one particular strain of bacteria. This new molecule is different.

“We’re targeting a resistance mechanism that’s shared by a whole bunch of pathogens,” said Geller.

“It’s the same gene in different types of bacteria, so you only have to have one PPMO that’s effective for all of them, which is different than other PPMOs that are genus specific.”

The team tested the new PPMO out on three different genera of bacteria in a petri dish – all of which expressed NDM-1 and were resistant to carbapenems.

They used the new molecule alongside a type of carbapenem called meropenem, and showed that it quickly restored the antibiotics’ ability to kill the bacteria.

They then used a combination of the new PPMO and meropenem on mice who were infected with antibiotic-resistant E. coli, and showed it could effectively treat the infection and improve survival rates for the mice.

This suggests that, in future, the PPMO could be used alongside existing antibiotics to make bacteria susceptible to them once again.

“A PPMO can restore susceptibility to antibiotics that have already been approved, so we can get a PPMO approved and then go back and use these antibiotics that had become useless,” said Geller.

To be clear, showing that this strategy works in the lab and in mice isn’t evidence enough that it will work in humans just yet, but the team says it could be ready for clinical trials in the next three years.

Until then, we’ll have to wait and see. But it’s the first bit of good news we’ve had about superbugs in a long time, so we’ll be watching the progress closely.

Humans carry more superbugs than farm animals

Humans carry more antibiotic-resistant bacteria than the farm animals they handle, a new study on dairy farmers has found.

Bacteria. Reuters file photo

One of the most common and costly diseases faced by the dairy industry is bovine mastitis, a potentially fatal bacterial inflammation of the mammary gland (IMI).

Researchers studying staphylococcal populations responsible for causing mastitis in dairy cows in South Africa found that humans carried more antibiotic-resistant staphylococci than the farm animals with which they worked.

“The rise of livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) and reported cases of bacterial transmission between dairy cows and humans has raised concerns from both the agriculture/veterinary sector and public health officials,” said lead investigator Tracy Schmidt, from the University of Pretoria.

Staphylococcus aureus is a contagious udder pathogen that readily spreads between cows at milking.

The main source is milk from infected quarters, with milking machine teat liners playing a significant role in the transmission of the bacteria among cows and mammary quarters.

Other Staphylococcus species, collectively referred to as coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS), often exhibit extensive resistance to antimicrobials and may serve as a reservoir of resistance genes that can transfer and supplement the genome of more pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus.

This research analysed the diversity of Staphylococcus populations responsible in South Africa for IMI in dairy cows and assessed the susceptibility of different species to antimicrobials commonly used in the veterinary field as well as human medicine.

Individuals working in close contact with the animals were sampled and the diversity and susceptibility profiles of staphylococcal isolates determined and compared with isolates of animal origin.

With respect to staphylococcal diversity the results showed the clear predominance of Staphylococcus chromogenes among the CNS causing IMI, while Staphylococcus epidermidis was most commonly recovered from the human specimen.

The study found a relatively low occurrence of antimicrobial resistance among the bovine staphylococci.

“This is encouraging as it indicates the responsible usage of antimicrobials within local dairies and provides our veterinary practitioners and animal owners valuable information going forward with respect to the treatment of infected animals,” said Schmidt.

Furthermore, all isolates tested negative for the presence of vancomycin-encoding genes – vancomycin being one of the front-line antimicrobials used for the treatment of methicillin-resistant staphylococcal infections in humans.

The results indicate the low potential health risk posed to close contact workers and milk consumers through exposure to antibiotic-resistant staphylococci originating from milk. The research is published in the Journal of Dairy Science.

White House declares war on ‘superbugs’ .

U.S. President Barack Obama.(Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Obama administration has unveiled a $1.2 billion plan to combat drug-resistant bacteria, also known as ‘superbugs.’ Five out of six Americans are on antibiotics, and 23,000 die annually of drug-resistant infections.

Released to the public on Friday, the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria envisions efforts to rein in over-prescription of antibiotics by doctors, use of “medically important antibiotics” in food animals, and the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, while promoting the development of new and more effective antibiotics for human use.

We know that 5 out of 6 Americans are prescribed antibiotics each year. That adds up to 262 million antibiotic prescriptions annually,” president Obama said in an exclusive interview with WebMD. “And studies have consistently shown that a lot of America’s antibiotic use is unnecessary.

One of the main causes of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is the use of antibiotics when they are not needed, the president said. Drug-resistant infections are on the rise: according to government statistics, there are two million infections a year in the US, resulting in 23,000 deaths.

The plan envisions $1.2 billion in funding to various government agencies. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would begin research on new antibiotics, while the Department of Agriculture is to start reducing “irresponsible use” of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. A newly created Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, with up to 30 members managed by the HHS, would be entrusted with oversight of the plan.

We’re seeing an increase in drug-resistant organisms that are affecting every community,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Tom Frieden told The Hill, “and are at risk, really, to undermine much of modern medicine.

The CDC would use the $264.3 million increase in funding to develop prevention programs in every state, potentially forestalling 600,000 infections and $8 billion in medical costs, Dr. Frieden said.

Some questions remain as to where the money would come from. President Obama says some of the funding is already in the 2016 budget, but it appears the rest will have to get approval from the Republican-controlled Congress.

Wherever we can act without Congress, we will. But to get the whole job done, we need Congress to step up,” Obama told WebMD.

The plan has already faced some criticism for not going far enough to reduce antibiotic use in agriculture. Industrial farming accounts for the vast majority of antibiotic consumption in the US, and is on the rise around the world.

The plan continues to allow the routine feeding of antibiotics to animals that live in the crowded conditions endemic to industrial farms,” said a statement by environmentalist group Natural Resources Defense Council.

Antibiotics for Traveler’s Diarrhea May Spur Growth of Superbugs.

The overuse of antibiotics to treat travelers’ diarrhea may contribute to the spread of drug-resistant superbugs, a new study suggests.

Antibiotics should be used to treat travelers’ diarrhea only in severe cases, said the study authors.

The study was published online Jan. 22 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“The great majority of all cases of travelers’ diarrhea are mild and resolve on their own,” lead author Dr. Anu Kantele, associate professor in infectious diseases at Helsinki University Hospital in Finland, said in a journal news release.

The researchers tested 430 people from Finland before and after they traveled outside of the country. About one in five of those who traveled to tropical and subtropical regions unknowingly returned with antibiotic-resistant gut bacteria.

Risk factors for catching antibiotic-resistant gut bacteria include having travelers’ diarrhea and taking antibiotics for it while abroad. More than one-third of the travelers who took antibiotics for diarrhea came home with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to the study.

Eighty percent of travelers to South Asia who took antibiotics to treat diarrhea contracted the antibiotic-resistant gut bacteria. Other regions that posed a high risk were Southeast Asia, East Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, the study found.

People who get the antibiotic-resistant bacteria may not develop noticeable symptoms. But they can still unknowingly spread the superbugs in their own countries.

“More than 300 million people visit these high-risk regions every year,” Kantele said. “If approximately 20 percent of them are colonized with the bugs, these are really huge numbers. This is a serious thing. The only positive thing is that the colonization is usually transient, lasting for around half a year.”

International travelers need to be educated about how to safely treat traveler’s diarrhea. They should more cautious about taking antibiotics to treat diarrhea, the study authors said.

In general, travelers with diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter, nonantibiotic anti-diarrheal drugs. Seek medical attention if there are symptoms such as high fever, bloody stools or serious dehydration, Kantele advised.

Antibiotic breakthrough could turn the tables in battle against superbugs .

The powerful antimicrobial teixobactin was discovered using a new technique that could speed up the discovery of new antibiotics to tackle resistance
A scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Teixobactin kills a wide range of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA.

A scanning electron micrograph of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
Scientists have discovered a new class of antibiotic using a revolutionary procedure hailed as a game changer in the hunt for medicines to fight drug-resistant infections. The antibiotic, called teixobactin, kills a wide range of drug-resistant bacteria, including MRSA and bugs that cause TB and a host of other life-threatening infections.

It could become a powerful weapon in the battle against antimicrobial resistance, because it kills microbes by blocking their capacity to build their cell walls, making it extremely difficult for bacteria to evolve resistance.

“Teixobactin kills exceptionally well. It has the ability to rapidly clear infections,” said research leader Kim Lewis, director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University in Boston, US.

The public health threat of resistance was highlighted last year in a World Health Organisation report that warned the world was entering a “post-antibiotic era”. The UK’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, has put antibiotic resistance on the government’s national risk register, alongside terrorist attacks and pandemic flu, and warned that without new antibiotics, more people will die after routine operations in the next 20 years. In December, a report commissioned by David Cameron warned that failure to tackle drug-resistant infections will cost the global economy up to £64tn ($100tn) by 2050.

In studies on mice, the new antibiotic wiped out infections of Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can cause life-threatening blood and lung infections. It was also effective against Enterococcus, which can infect the heart, prostate, urinary tract and abdomen.

Most antibiotics are isolated from bacteria or fungi that churn out lethal compounds to keep other microbes at bay. But scientists have checked only a tiny fraction of bugs for their ability to produce potential antibiotics because 99% cannot be grown in laboratories.

Lewis’s group found a way around the problem by developing a device called an iChip that cultures bacteria in their natural habitat. The device sandwiches the bugs between two permeable sheets. It is then pushed back into the ground where the microbes grow into colonies.

The researchers found that after two weeks in the ground, the microbial colonies had grown enough to run tests on them. To do this, they covered the top of the iChip with layers of pathogens. Bugs that produced natural antibiotics revealed themselves by killing the pathogens above them.

Working with a Massachusetts-based company, NovoBiotic, and researchers at the University of Bonn, Lewis’s group screened 10,000 soil bacteria for antibiotics and discovered 25 new compounds. Of these, teixobactin was the most promising.

Teixobactin’s ability to kill bugs is only part of the attraction of the compound. Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists describe how none of the bacteria treated with the antibiotic showed signs of developing resistance.

The reason for the drug’s apparent resilience was discovered by Tanja Schneider in Bonn. Most antibiotics target bacterial proteins, but bugs can become resistant by evolving new kinds of proteins. Teixobactin works differently. It launches a double attack on the building blocks of bacterial cell walls themselves. “That’s an Achilles’ heel for antibiotic attack,” Schneider said. “It would take so much energy for the cell to modify this, I think it’s unlikely resistance will appear this way.”

Though promising, Lewis said that years more work lie ahead before the drug could be available. Human clinical trials could begin within two years to check its safety and efficacy, but more development would follow that. At the moment the drug would have to be given as an injection, but an oral pill would be more attractive.

Another shortcoming of teixobactin is that it only works against bacteria that lack outer cell walls, known as Gram-positive bacteria, such as MRSA, Streptococcus and TB. It doesn’t work against Gram-negative bacteria, which include some of the most worrying antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as Klebsiella, E. coli and Pseudomonas.

Despite these limitations, the discovery of the antibiotic, and the process used to grow previously ungrowable microbes, has raised hopes among researchers in the field.

“What most excites me is the tantalising prospect that this discovery is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. “It may be that we will find more, perhaps many more, antibiotics using these latest techniques.”