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New study shows that people living near swine factory farms and crop fields fertilized with pig manure are more likely to pick up antibiotic-resistant staph infections

Avinash Kar

Posted September 19, 2013 in Health and the Environment

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Hot on the heels of the CDC’s new report about the “potentially catastrophic” antibiotic resistance crisis we face—which confirmed that both human and livestock uses of antibiotics are contributing to the public health crisis—comes a new study that documents increased risks of contracting antibiotics-resistant infections for people living near factory farms and crop fields fertilized with manure from factory farms.

A study published Monday in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) shows that living close to pig livestock operations and to fields fertilized with pig manure increases the risk of contracting MRSA (a drug resistant staph infection) and other antibiotic-resistant skin and soft-tissue infections. As a story in Nature notes,

They found that people who had the highest exposure to manure — calculated on the basis of how close they lived to farms, how large the farms were and how much manure was used — were 38% more likely to get CA-MRSA [community-associated MRSA] and 30% more likely to get HA-MRSA [health-care-associated MRSA].

The study adds to the concerns about the use of antibiotics in livestock operations and its contribution to the rise of antibiotic resistance.

Both the CDC report and the new study are continuing reminders of the need to address the misuse of antibiotics not only in human medicine, but also in livestock facilities, which purchase 80% of the antibiotics, by weight, sold in the United States. Check out the blogs of my colleagues, Mae Wu and Carmen Cordova, for more about the policy solutions to address the misuse of antibiotics in livestock and the science connecting livestock antibiotic use to threats to human health.

For more on the study published in JAMA, see these articles in USA Today and Nature.

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