Antibiotic resistance across the food supply chain differs between developed and developing countries

A new study reports that over half the meat on US grocery shelves have high levels of bacteria and these bacteria are drug resistant. Seen with the  news that the World Health Organization's 2011 theme is   combating "Antimicrobial Resistance and its global spread," there are interesting food supply chain issues that are different in the developed and developing world.

In most parts of Asia,Africa and Latin America you will find subsistence farmers growing animals in one's and two's. Hardly able to feed the animals the farmer simply does not have the resources to pay for antibiotics as a sort of  vaccine before the animal is actually sick. Down the food chain from the farm,there is uneven refrigeration in transportation and distribution .As soon as any human being feels sick  doctors start antibiotics even as upstream food processing and infrastructure is being developed. For example,a throat infection might be viral  and go away without antibiotics doctors take no chances and prescribe stronger and stronger antibiotics as the bugs outsmart the original penicillin.

Just as the huge egg farms, western farms are very large and antibiotics are given as a sort of vaccine to prevent infections,it appears, from today's report . Doctors in the US normally hesitate to prescribe antibiotics to humans (hence "free antibiotics" with a prescription at some grocery stores) unless there is evidence of bacterial infection. The trouble off course is that the animals have antibiotic resistant bacteria.

An interesting though serious paradox with animals receiving high antibiotics in many countries and humans receiving high antibiotics in others.The bugs are outsmarting treatment at both ends of the supply chain as pharmaceutical research finds it harder to invent the next generation antibiotic.

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