Hurd responds to anti-antibiotic editorialEditor’s note: Scott Hurd, DVM, PhD, Iowa State University, shares this letter-to-the-editor he wrote to the Des Moines Register in response to its editorial on food-animal use of antibiotics. Read more from Hurd at http://hurdhealth.com/.

As a veterinarian and an Iowa State professor who is concerned about antibiotic resistance for over 30 years, and a former U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of USDA’s Office of Food Safety, I want to include some relevant facts in response to the Des Moines Register’s editorial published on March 3rd.

We are all concerned about the adaptability of bacteria and their ability to develop resistance. You see, antibiotic resistance has been documented to have existed for at least four million years. So clearly, resistance has not developed due to modern animal agriculture.

In Denmark, where they have banned the use of all antimicrobials, except those for  treatment, the amount of medicine used to treat sick piglets doubled and public health has not improved. Additionally, there are now 75 percent fewer pig farmers. There are more pigs in Denmark today because the remaining farms simply got bigger.

Last week, I met with Senator Harkin’s staff and other congressional staff in Washington, D.C., to talk about the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA). It’s important to understand this act’s main objective is not related to the topic we are discussing, but rather it’s related to the funding of U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some argue this bill should have attachments for more data reporting, but antimicrobial sales are already being reported by the FDA. It will not be helpful, only costly, if we collect more data on antibiotic use, but don’t collect data related to public health, our main concern.

It’s important for human and animal medicine to work together to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for all uses. In the end, it’s about farmers and veterinarians being able to use medicines when necessary to protect the health and welfare of their animals, which helps ensure food safety and human health.