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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Blog posting by Kayla Reopelle, Documentary Studies and Production '14, FLEFF Blogger, Roy, WA
“If we lose antibiotics, we are so screwed,” Bentley said. “I mean, we’re back to like dying of toothaches.”
Dr. Mary Bentley, associate professor in the department of Health Promotion and Physical Education, is organizing “From Pharm. to Farm: Antibiotic Resistance in a Global Economy,” a minicourse and speaker series co-sponsored by the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.
Over the last 85 years, antibiotics have aided in the near eradication of deadly diseases such as tuberculosis and polio. Antibiotics have been vital to medical treatment for humans, but have also expanded to agricultural use.
In the last 20 years, scientists have observed growing resistance to antibiotics. Due to the proliferation of antibiotics, the microbes these drugs target have evolved. Many diseases are becoming resistant to the cures doctors rely on.
“The [antibiotics] that are used are selling.” Bentley said. “[Doctors say], ‘Oh just give em more, or give them two different kinds of the same ones, or three,’ instead of developing new ones.”
By overusing antibiotics, the microbes they target are given opportunity to evolve, to become resistant to the drugs.
“[Antibiotic resistant microbes are] just getting more opportunity all the time,” Bentley said. “They’re getting smarter and smarter because they evolve for survival like everything. It definitely is getting to the point now where we’re [seeing] TB, we’re seeing polio again.”
Besides overuse in human treatment, antibiotic resistance is largely attributed to the overuse of antibiotics in the agricultural industry. Eighty percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to food-producing animals.
From Bentley’s research, it isn’t a matter of if we’ll lose antibiotics due to resistance, it’s when.
To tackle the multi-faceted nature of this issue, Bentley is planning these events based on three interconnected threads of the global antibiotic crisis:
The Clinical: How antibiotics interact in the guts of humans
The Agricultural: How antibiotics given to animals affect humans
The Research: Very little research in new antibiotics even though nearly eradicated diseases are starting to come back
Four speakers will present the complexities of antibiotic resistance, agricultural use of antibiotics, and the interference of global economic forces on these drugs.
First two speakers focus on informing visitors about the issue:
Health Policy Specialist discussing overuse of antibiotics in farm healthy animals
Microbiologist discussing the global spread of antibiotics
The third and fourth speakers are talking about what solutions to this problem may look like:
Panel of local, organic farmers, presenting a different paradigm for agriculture, an alternative to the agri-business model
Microbiologist working on new antibiotics, trying to discover how to address the medical resistance while knowing that the microbes will continue to evolve
“Instead of just offering nothing but analysis, we’re trying to offer some ... great alternatives that are happening and no reason why they can’t continue.” Bentley said. “That’s why we put in the title ‘global economy,’ because that really is what’s driving a lot of the issues unfortunately.”
Bentley decided to team up with the festival for this series and mini-course because this discussions surrounding antibiotic resistance are deeply rooted in dissonance.
“The thing that cures you is the nemesis.”
According to Bentley, clashes between scientific findings and the health of the global economy prevent public health from making progress on this issue.
“When you do you use antibiotics and when do you let yourself be sick?
“When do you actually pay $10 a pound for chicken instead of $2?
Bentley has observed that logic and good science are not enough to outweigh the value of high antibiotic use to the global economy.
“The whole thing is nothing but dissonance.”
Change, for Bentley, will need to come from the fork.
“I think if it doesn’t start with food, then I don’t know what,” Bentley said.
“Food is so basic, [it effects everyone] from an infant to an elder, so I think that between obesity and this, if we don’t get it now, I don’t really know, good luck.”
What do you want to learn about global antibiotic resistance?