We’ve reached the limits of medicine’s effectiveness. Thanks to overmedication and the abuse of antibiotics in the agriculture industry, there are infections that can no longer be treated with antibiotics. And there’s nothing left to do except maybe hope for the best.

According to Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an associate director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we now live in a post-antibiotic era in which drug-resistant bacteria are invincible. In an interview this week on PBS, Srinivasan discussed how we got to the point at which patients who could once be cured by an antibiotic are now left without any options. Srinivasan notes that for a while some media have been speculating whether the “end of antibiotics” was nigh. Now, the doctor says, “You can change the title to ‘The end of antibiotics, period.’ ” Willy Blackmore, food editor of TakePart, a news website that focuses on social justice, discusses the interview:

The lengthy interview focuses largely on the use—and abuse—of antibiotics in the human context, but America’s largest consumers of these drugs, livestock, are unwittingly contributing to this growing public health risk too.

“There have been a number of studies that show that when you give antibiotics to animals, especially to animals that we then eat, there are antibiotics that get into their systems that can develop resistance,” Dr. Srinivasan says, “and then when we eat the food, we can be exposed to those resistant organisms.”

Just this week industry watchdogs made their latest call for a ban on non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals raised for food. The oft-repeated recommendation was part of a report published by the John Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future, which also found that the influence of industrial ag and the pharmaceutical industry has on iron-grip on policy discussions—and wields outsized influence over academia and the government’s regulation and enforcement efforts.

With 30 million pounds of antibiotics sold to agriculture industry in 2011, it’s a massive market to protect.

So no matter how careful you were to take medication only as prescribed, or how often you turned to home remedies to fight off bacteria, antibiotics have been sneaking into your organism. And it all comes down to profiteering industries valuing money over health.

Blackmore ponders whether the fact that we’ve reached such an extreme will bring about any change in the agricultural industry. “Considering that the Food and Drug Administration first voiced concern over the use of antibiotics in meat production in the mid-1960s,” Blackmore grimly states, “it’s difficult to be hopeful.”

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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