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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Resistance to Important Antibiotics Found on US Swine Farm

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File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media
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Researchers found antibiotic-resistant bacteria at a sow farm in the US.

Bacteria containing a gene that confers resistance to an important class of antibiotics have been found at a swine farm in the U.S., raising the troubling concern that one of the last lines of defense against hard-to-fight infections might be failing.

The drugs, called carbapenems, are used to fight infections resistant to more-common medicines and are banned for use in livestock.

A team of researchers from Ohio State, however, found a carbapenem-resistant gene in samples collected from a U.S. pig farm. The researchers did not find evidence that antibiotic-resistant bacteria had entered the food supply. The study was published Monday in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had already called carbapenem-resistance an "urgent threat" to human health that is responsible for about 600 deaths a year. Researchers had previously found in livestock resistance to another antibiotic considered among the last lines of defense against infections resistant to multiple drugs, called colistin.

As journalist Maryn McKenna points out, this is not the first discovery of genes resistant to this class of antibiotics in U.S. livestock. These findings may be more concerning, however, as these genes were found on a piece of DNA that can help spread resistance quickly, according to McKenna.

This research is merely the latest indication that some of the most important medicines doctors prescribe to fight infections are losing effectiveness.

The Obama Administration is calling on farmers to help turn the tide against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, sometimes called “superbugs.” Antibiotics are used in many livestock feeding operations to treat sick animals, but some farmers also put antibiotics in feed or water to keep animals from getting sick or make them gain weight faster. Bacteria not killed by the medicines develop resistance to the drugs, which can then spread to humans, making antibiotics less effective at killing infections and putting lives at risk.

New rules meant to cut the use of antibiotics in livestock are set to go into effect on Jan. 1. Even then, however, farmers will still be allowed to dose livestock with certain antibiotics to prevent infection, leaving some public health advocates worried that little will change.