Taking too long? Close loading screen.
Connect with us

World

How factory farms are making the antibiotics we use less effective against disease

Published

on

Every year, around 8 million Americans go to a health care provider for a urinary tract infection. Fortunately, many of those infections are pretty easy to treat. Doctors prescribe a regimen of antibiotics and send the patient on their merry way.

But if those antibiotics stopped working, urinary tract infections could quickly develop into something much more serious: possibly a kidney infection, maybe a blood infection, sepsis, and even death. And since we’re increasingly seeing antibiotic resistance in a wide range of bacteria, UTIs would be one of many infections that would become much less easy to treat.

That’s why Cindy Liu and Lance Price, two public health researchers, were so concerned when they found E. coli from chicken meat in samples of human urinary tract infections.

Liu and Price knew that factory-farmed chickens, like many factory-farmed animals worldwide, are fed a steady supply of antibiotics over the course of their lives to fend off disease. They also knew that the E. coli growing among those chickens were becoming resistant to those antibiotics. And now they had evidence that those antibiotic resistant E. coli from chickens could take up residence in human bladders.

As Liu clarifies, there has been some effort in the US to separate the antibiotics used in human medicine and animal treatment, but other countries have different standards.

“Bacteria, they do not respect boundaries,” she says. So antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli could easily travel here from other countries, leaving us with infections that we cannot treat.

The practice of feeding factory-farmed animals a steady diet of antibiotics doesn’t just undermine our ability to treat human urinary tract infections. It’s a problem for any of the infections we currently treat with antibiotics.

“As bacteria become resistant to all of our antibiotics because of our overuse in animal production and in human medicine, we are not going to be able to save people the way we have in the past, which is by just giving them an oral antibiotic,” Price says. “My sister had bone cancer just two years ago. The first four rounds of chemo, she had three bacterial infections. If any of those had been super resistant, she could have died of a failure of a $20 prescription.”

On this episode of the Future Perfect podcast, we explore the antibiotic risks posed by our current system of raising meat, and what we might do to fix the problem.

Further reading

This podcast is made possible thanks to support from Animal Charity Evaluators. They research and promote the most effective ways to help animals.

Sign up for the Future Perfect newsletter. Twice a week, you’ll get a roundup of ideas and solutions for tackling our biggest challenges: improving public health, decreasing human and animal suffering, easing catastrophic risks, and — to put it simply — getting better at doing good.


Help keep Vox free for all

Millions turn to Vox each month to understand what’s happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.

Source

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

World

Malaysia rulers to meet amid talk of emergency declaration

Published

on

Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah will meet the country’s sultans to discuss proposals put forward by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the palace said on Saturday without elaborating on their content, amid reports that Muhyiddin wants to impose a state of emergency.

Muhyiddin met the king on Friday to present a proposal that would lead to the suspension of parliament, sources told the Reuters news agency. The potential move has been widely condemned by the country’s opposition politicians and greeted with alarm by Malaysians.

The king would meet the other rulers “soon”, Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, the Comptroller of the Royal Household, said in a statement. The prime minister’s office has not commented on the proposal.

Muhyiddin has faced questions over his support in the 222-seat parliament since he was appointed prime minister in March, and pressure has grown since the opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said last week he had secured the backing required to become prime minister.

Malaysia is also battling a sudden resurgence in the outbreak of COVID-19.

The country now has more than 24,000 cases of COVID-19, more than double the number a month ago. Upwards of 700 and 800 cases a day have been reported for the past week and on Friday the country recorded 10 deaths, the highest since the pandemic began.

Malaysia has endured a sudden resurgence of COVID-19 and new restrictions were imposed earlier this month [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

COVID-19 spike

Most have been in Sabah, where a state election took place on September 26, but the outbreak there has also helped seed clusters in the peninsula – a two-hour flight across the South China Sea – and Kuala Lumpur and Selangor – the country’s richest state – have been under a partial lockdown since October 14.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he was “deeply concerned” at the reports of an emergency.

“A state of emergency is declared when there is a threat to our national security,” he said in a statement. “But when the government is itself the source of that threat then a state of emergency is nothing more than the descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism.”

On Friday, Muhyiddin’s cabinet held a special meeting that included the chief of police and head of the armed forces. He then flew to the east coast for a two-hour audience with the king. Local media reported unnamed sources within the government saying an emergency was necessary because of “political instability” and the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an open letter, seven former presidents of the Malaysian Bar Council said Malaysia’s success in tackling earlier waves of the disease showed existing laws were sufficient.

“There is no violence, or threat to the security of our nation,” they wrote, urging the government to reconsider the situation.

“If the predominant objective of the suggested declaration is to suspend parliament, and to gain emergency powers then it will obviously be an unlawful design which, if unchecked, will disenfranchise and deceive Malaysians.”

Budget vote

The next session of Malaysia’s parliament is scheduled to begin on November 2, with the government facing its first test within days when the budget is presented on November 6.

A failure to pass the spending plans could be seen as a vote of no-confidence in the government and lead to a general election.

During the last session in July, Muhyiddin, who governs in a loose alliance with a number of ethnic Malay and Islamic parties, won the vote to replace the speaker by a majority of just two.

Multi-ethnic Malaysia was last governed under an emergency in 1969, after race riots in Kuala Lumpur left scores of people, most of then ethnic Chinese, dead.

Under the order, the constitution was suspended, parliament dissolved, and the functions of government moved under a National Operations Council. A curfew restored order to the streets, but the media was muzzled and prominent opposition politicians were arrested under provisions that allowed for indefinite detention.

Parliament reconvened in February 1971, and political life resumed, but the actual emergency ordinance was not fully repealed until 2013.

Source

Continue Reading

World

Galapagos sees record rise in penguins, flightless cormorants

Published

on

A drop in tourism and weather patterns associated with La Nina are thought to have helped the bird species in the remote archipelago.

The population of Galapagos penguins and flightless cormorants, two species endemic to the remote islands, has seen a record increase, according to study results released on Friday.

The Galapagos penguin is one of the smallest species of penguins in the world, measuring up to 35 centimetres (14 inches) and the cormorants on the islands are the only type to have lost their ability to fly. They have developed diving skills instead.

“The number of cormorants has reached a record number, according to historical data dating back to 1977, while the number of penguins is at the highest since 2006,” said a statement from the Galapagos National Park, which carried out the census.

The population of Galapagos penguins, the only ones living on the earth’s equator, increased from 1,451 in 2019 to 1,940 in 2020, it added.

Flightless cormorant numbers increased from 1,914 to 2,220 over the same period.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept tourists away from the Galapagos, helping the species that live on the archipelago recoup [File: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP]

The Galapagos Islands lie 1,000 kilometres (625 miles) off the coast of Ecuador and are home to species found nowhere else in the world.

The study was carried out by the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation in September. The main colonies present on the Isabela and Fernandina islands and the Marielas islets which are to the west of the archipelago have been classified as a natural heritage site.

Paulo Proano, Ecuador’s minister of environment and water, said the census results reflect the “good state of health of the population” of the Galapagos’ birds.

The park said the presence of the La Nina climatic phenomenon, which helps to provide more food for the birds, had contributed to the increase in their populations.

Another factor was the coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced disturbances to their nesting areas because of the drop in tourism, the park added.

The islands, which served as a natural laboratory for the English scientist Charles Darwin for his theory of the evolution of species, takes their name from the giant tortoises that live there.

Source

Continue Reading

World

US to base Coast Guard ships in western Pacific to tackle China

Published

on

The United States will deploy Coast Guard patrol ships in the western Pacific to counter what it described as “destabilizing and malign” activities in the region by China, the country’s top security adviser said on Friday.

The US Coast Guard was “strategically homeporting significantly enhanced Fast Response Cutters … in the western Pacific,” White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said in a statement.

Describing the US as a Pacific power, the statement added that China’s “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific threatens our sovereignty, as well as the sovereignty of our Pacific neighbors and endangers regional stability”.

It said US efforts, including by the Coast Guard, were “critical to countering these destabilizing and malign actions.”

The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement, which came just ahead of a planned visit to Asia by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) and Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne pose prior to their bilateral meeting in Tokyo on October 6, 2020 ahead of the four Indo-Pacific nations’ foreign ministers meeting. – (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / POOL / AFP)

Pompeo led a meeting of the so-called Quad in Tokyo this month. Washington hopes the grouping of the US, Japan, India and Australia can act as a bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness and extensive maritime claims in the region, including to nearly all of the South China Sea.

On Sunday, Pompeo will begin a five-day tour of India – where he will be accompanied by US Defense Secretary Mark Esper – and then he will continue on to Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Maritime security and a “free and open Indo-Pacific” will be high on the agenda, the State Department said.

Incursions

In July, Esper condemned a “catalogue of bad behaviour” in the South China Sea over the previous months, accusing the Chinese military of having sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat, harassing Malaysian oil and gas vessels and escorting Chinese fishing fleets into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

O’Brien added that the Coast Guard, which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was also studying whether to permanently station several of its patrol ships in the area of American Samoa in the South Pacific.

Last month, Indonesia protested after Chinese coastguard ships travelled into its exclusive economic zone, which is situated between its own territorial waters and international waters and where the state claims exclusive rights to develop natural resources.

China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea as its own. Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines also claim the parts of the sea nearest to their shores.

The US Navy regularly conducts what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations in the disputed sea – angering China, which has developed military outposts on islands and islets.

Source

Continue Reading

Trending