I am a physician in Oak Park and it may sound a bit odd, but I love bacteria and appreciate all that these critters do for me and my patients’ health.
That is why I consistently heed the warnings in medical journals and from my professional organizations about the dangers of prescribing antibiotics when not necessary. It is also why I object to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics by the agriculture industry.
Although most think antibiotics are what doctors use for sick patients, 80% of all antibiotics in the U.S. (many are the same kind I use in my office) go into the feed of livestock. In the 1950s, when factory farms and livestock overcrowding led to more infections, farmers discovered giving sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to the whole lot would decrease the infections. It was then noted that the animals given these antibiotics grew at a slightly faster rate, which led to this almost universal practice.
Little did we know feeding antibiotics to livestock would also have major detrimental effects on human health. Bacteria are ingenious and quickly adapt to the pressure of sub-therapeutic antibiotics. When that happens, antibiotics no longer have the killing effect, and dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria are the result.
We now have proof that these dangerous bacteria are showing up in the public, threatening our health. Many antibiotics that I use in my practice to treat serious infections are losing their effectiveness.
Another unforeseen problem: Traces of the antibiotics used in the feed are ending up in the meat we eat and the water we drink, killing friendly bacteria in our own gut system. This can lead to a whole host of health problems. There is a recent explosion of research indicating that the natural populations of bacteria in our body are responsible for a proper functioning immune system, digestive system, neuro-system and endocrine system. We need bacteria to stay alive and healthy!
We need to support our farmers in finding alternative ways to maintain the quality of their livestock without endangering the public health. The FDA has been softly suggesting to the agriculture industry not to use the antibiotics we use in medicine. Now it is time to give the FDA the authority to ban this practice that threatens all our health. I have introduced a Healthy Farms, Healthy Families resolution to the village board which supports the current bills in Congress (Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) in the House and the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA) in the Senate, which address this issue.
There are two things we all can do here in Oak Park to protect our health. First contact our trustees to support the Healthy Farms, Healthy Families resolution. Second, buy only antibiotic free meat, dairy, eggs, poultry. You will be doing a favor for yourself and the friendly, life-giving critters inside you that call you their home.
Paul Schattauer, M.D., ABFM, AAFP