Kern County is in the heart of agriculture in California. A news report from CNN coming out of this county begins with this heartbreaking story:
Neonatologist Gurvir Khurana had only read about it in textbooks. Seeing it in real life has been a shock: baby after baby born severely anemic, lungs filled with fluid, bodies covered with rashes.
Some only lived minutes; others died within days or weeks.
The cause: congenital syphilis.
We have rising rates of STDs that we use older antibiotics like penicillins and tetracyclines to treat. We are using these older antibiotics to treat conditions that are increasingly causing concern – that are killing newborn babies.
These older antibiotics are used in animals, and they are still important for human medicine. We need these older antibiotics to remain effective, too.
It turns out, the sales of these older antibiotics in animals can rival or completely overshadow the sales in humans.
In 2011, penicillin sales in humans totaled 3,219,677 lbs and in animals totaled 1,940,427 pounds. Now, sales of pencillins in animals have increased to 2,065,001 lbs.
In 2011, tetracycline sales in humans totaled 250,957 pounds, and in animals totaled 12,439,744 lbs of tetracycline.
These numbers are bad news if we want to make sure these antibiotics keep working. We need to rein in the unnecessary uses, and make sure we’re only using antibiotics to treat sick people and sick animals.