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That Age-Old Advice to Finish Your Antibiotics Might Do More Harm Than Good

Anybody who’s ever had an antibiotic prescription has heard the warning: Be sure to finish the bottle. Until now, the reasoning for this has been that not completing the course of treatment encourages the bacteria you’re fighting to develop resistance to the antibiotic. But now, Science Alert reports that scientists may have gotten it all wrong, as a new study hints that taking a long course of a drug may be the true culprit in promoting antibiotic resistance.

The growing threat of antibiotic-resistant disease is a global problem, and the cause is overuse of antibiotics. These drugs are one of the most commonly prescribed in human medicine, and up to 50 percent of the time they’re prescribed when not needed or using incorrect dosing or duration. Yet, what this featured article fails to note is that 80 percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. are implemented for industrial agriculture for purposes of growth promotion and preventing diseases that would otherwise make their concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) unviable.

Essentially, this use is turning farm animals into disease factories — and you can be exposed to the resistant bacteria by eating contaminated meat or consuming produce grown in contaminated soil or exposed to contaminated water. For example, research revealed that current workers at hog farms are six times more likely to carry multi-drug resistant MRSA than those without exposure to CAFO pigs. The story goes on and on, but the bottom line is routine antibiotic use on farm animals needs to stop.

You can help fight antibiotic resistance in several ways, starting with refusing to purchase any meat, poultry or dairy product from a CAFO. This means purchasing only organic, antibiotic-free meats and other foods from responsible, high-quality, sustainable sources. Also, antibiotics yourself only when absolutely necessary. Avoid all antibacterial household cleaners and soaps, and wash your hands with plain soap and water.
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