Transcript: Superbugs in Conventional vs. Organic Chicken
One of the most concerning developments in medicine is emergence of bacterial super-resistance. Resistance to not just one class of drugs, like Penicillin, but resistance to multiple classes of drugs, so-called multi-drug resistant bacteria. In the 2013 FDA retail meat report more than a quarter of the Salmonella found contaminating retail chicken breasts were resistant to not one but five or more different classes of antibiotic treatment drugs.
Throughout history, there has been a continual battle between humans and pathogens. And for the last half century that battle has taken the form of bugs versus drugs. First we developed penicillin, and the US Surgeon General declared "The war against infectious diseases has been won." However, the euphoria over the potential conquest of infectious diseases was short lived.
In response, bacteria developed an enzyme that ate penicillin for breakfast. Literally, an enzyme that breaks down penicillin. In fact they can excrete large quantities of the enzyme and so can destroy the drug before it even comes into contact. Ah so we developed a drug that blocks the penicillin eating enzyme. That's why you may see two drug names— one is the antibiotic, and the other is a drug that blocks the enzyme the bacteria uses to block the antibiotic, but the bacteria outsmarted us again, and so it goes back and forth. However hard we try and however clever we are, there is no question that organisms that have been around for 3 billion years, and have adapted to survive under the most extreme conditions, will always overcome whatever we decide to throw at them.
So we went from 1st generation antibiotics, to second generation antibiotics, to third generation antibiotics. But now we have bacteria that evolved the capacity to survive our big-gun third generation cephalosporins like ceftriaxone, which is what we rely on to treat life-threatening Salmonella infections in children. Where are these super-duper-superbugs found? Almost 90% were isolated from chicken carcasses or retail chicken meat.
But what if you only ate no-antibiotics-added organic chicken? A comparison of these multidrug resistant bacteria in organic and conventional retail chicken meat. The first such study ever published. All of the conventional chicken samples were contaminated, however, the majority, 84%, of organic chicken meat samples was also contaminated." So 100% versus 84%. Organic is definitely better, but odds are you're still buying something that could make you sick.
But where do these antibiotic resistance bacteria come from if they're not using antibiotics on organic farms? A possible explanation is the day old chicks come from the hatcheries already infected before they arrive, or they become contaminated after they leave in the slaughter plant. Organic chickens and conventionally raised chickens are typically all slaughtered at the same plants so there may be cross-contamination between carcasses. Finally, factory farms are dumping antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria-laden chicken manure out into the environment. You can pick up antibiotic resistance genes right out the soil around factory farms.
So even meat raised without antibiotics may be contaminated with multi-drug resistant bacteria.
In a cover story in which Consumer Reports urged retailers to stop selling meat produced with antibiotics, they noted some store employee confusion, although maybe they weren’t so confused after all. An assistant store manager at one grocery store, when asked by a shopper for meats raised without antibiotics, responded, “Wait, you mean like veggie burgers?”
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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