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Drug overuse in cattle imperils human health

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Drug use in cattleTwo kids seriously injured in the Joplin, Mo., tornado in May 2011 showed up at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City suffering from antibiotic-resistant infections from dirt and debris blown into their wounds.

Physicians tried different drugs, but at first nothing seemed to work. Blame the overuse of antibiotics in livestock, according to the doctors familiar with their cases. “These kids had some really highly resistant bacteria that they clearly had not picked up in a hospital,” said Jason Newland, director of the Children Mercy’s antibiotic stewardship program.

Newland and other doctors believe those infections are part of the price we are paying for a half-century of overusing antibiotics in cattle and other meat animals in the United States.

“If you look at tonnage, 80 percent of the total of all the antibiotics we use in the states is used in meat animals,” Newland said.

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