Special to CU.org
Katrina’s infectious potential magnifies wisdom of Baytril antibiotic decision
9/9/05 — The real possibility of a rise in infectious diseases amongst Katrina evacuees and those remaining in hurricane- ravaged areas puts into perspective the wisdom of a recent decision by the Food and Drug Administration to stick to its guns and permanently ban a livestock antibiotic that can reduce the effectiveness of similar drugs used in humans.
Reggie James, director of Consumers Union’s www.notinmyfood.org project, praised the FDA for resisting pressure to lift the ban on Baytril — an antibiotic widely used in poultry production – scheduled to take effect on September 12. Baytril (Enrofloxacin) closely resembles the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) used to treat severe food-borne illnesses in humans, such as that caused by the bacteria Campylobacter.
“Overuse of antibiotics is bad news for all of us,” James said. “Infections, whether they be food-borne, respiratory or otherwise, are particularly common in situations like the one cause by Hurricane Katrina where lack of proper sanitation, contaminated water supplies and close physical proximity to each other over a prolonged period of time can cause major health problems.”
While most cases of diarrhea are caused by viruses, antibiotics are used for those with bloody diarrhea or other signs that the infection is caused by bacteria, such as E. coli.
“E. coli bacteria is already a major problem in the flooded areas and bacterial contamination in water supplies may be a problem for an extended period of time,” James said. “We need to make sure that the antibiotics we prescribe are effective in treating digestive and other infections caused by bacteria, particularly among the most vulnerable populations of children and the elderly” James said.
The decision by Commissioner Lester Crawford marks the first time the FDA has withdrawn an agricultural antibiotic from the market due to concerns about antibiotic resistance affecting human health.
Generally, persistent use of antibiotics leads to the development of resistance in bacterial populations. Once a particular type of bacteria has developed resistance to an antibiotic, that antibiotic can no longer be used to combat the infectious organism.