More antibiotics are fed to livestock in North Carolina alone than are given to humans in the entire United States, according to a recent study.
Animal agriculture is a nearly $6 billion industry in North Carolina. Farmers say antibiotics are necessary to keep animals healthy and maintain the productivity needed to meet consumer demand for inexpensive meat.
But some researchers say antibiotics are overused in animal agriculture, which contributes to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, or super bugs, that can infect humans. They say the frequency of infections by antibiotic resistant bacteria is on the rise.
One type of antibiotic resistant bacteria is causing staph infections that kill about 18,000 Americans a year.
While researchers say much of the problem can be blamed on doctors over-prescribing antibiotics, they also say there’s a link to antibiotic use in agriculture. Suspected pathways include the consumption of meat containing antibiotic residue or antibiotic resistant bacteria being bred on the farm and finding its way out into the general population through a variety of methods.
“Overkill?” takes viewers on farms where antibiotics are being used and to the hospitals where doctors are battling an increasing number of antibiotic resistant infections. It explores the debate among farmers, researchers and advocates over the risk of agricultural antibiotic use and looks at the viability of large-scale antibiotic free meat production.
“Overkill?” is hosted by WRAL News anchor Debra Morgan and airs Thursday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.