The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a technical report warning that doctors’ ability to treat life-threatening infections in children is being compromised by the practice of adding antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs to the feed of healthy livestock.

“Children can be exposed to multiple-drug resistant bacteria, which are extremely difficult to treat if they cause an infection, through contact with animals given antibiotics and through consuming the meat of those animals,” said the report’s lead author Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP in a statement.

Nearly 80% of antibiotic use in the United States is in livestock. Many of the drugs are given to the animals for nontherapeutic use such as feed efficiency and growth promotion.

“Antibiotic resistance is becoming a bigger and bigger problem, both in kids and adults, so much so that some infections are becoming difficult, if not impossible to treat,” Dr. David Haslam, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the Director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said. [1]

Haslam say that kids and others with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk, such as those undergoing cancer treatment, bone marrow transplants, or organ transplants. Children in the hospital for trauma and other serious ailments are also highly susceptible to drug-resistant infections.

“The use of and/or water that’s fed to the animals will cause the bacteria that are in the animals to become resistant to those antibiotics,” said Paulson.

Unnecessary antibiotics given to livestock can create a situation in which someone can become infected with a certain bacteria and the antibiotic prescribed doesn’t kill the bacteria or treat the infection. A certain class of antibiotics that includes penicillin is suspected of actually making the superbug MRSA worse.

In the United States, infections strikes 2 million people every year; more than 23,000 of those individuals die from them, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network. The network said in 2013 that the highest incidence was among children under 5 years old.

“Infection with these bacteria is not something parents need to have a high level of anxiety about on a day-to-day basis — the infections themselves are rare,” Paulson explained. “Most healthy kids aren’t going to get infected. But if they do, or a child has a problem that impacts their immune system… it’s doubly difficult to treat.” [2]

Antibiotic resistance isn’t the only potential health hazard facing children who get too many of the drugs. Recent scientific findings suggest antibiotics may also be making children fat, predisposing them to diabetes, heart disease and other life-threatening diseases.

The easiest way to ensure that your child avoids livestock-related bacterial infections is, obviously, to stop eating meat as a family. If you’ve got to have an occasional burger fix, only serve meat that you know hasn’t been treated with antibiotics.

It’s also important for parents to only accept a prescription antibiotic for their children if it’s absolutely necessary. Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. Moms and dads should give an illness several days to run its course, and if it does not, then take their child to the doctor.

Sources:

[1] CBS News

[2] The Standard Times


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.