Last year, 26 animal pharmaceutical companies voluntarily complied with an FDA request to re-label medically important antibiotics used in food-producing animals to warn against using them for growth promotion and weight gain. FDA also recommended that medically important antibiotics be prescribed by licensed veterinarians and only to treat, control and prevent disease. “We need to be selective about the drugs we use in animals and when we use them,” says William Flynn of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “Antimicrobial resistance may not be completely preventable, but we need to do what we can to slow it down.”
In Missing Microbes , Dr. Martin Blaser reaches back to the discovery of antibiotics, which ushered in a golden age of medicine, and then traces how our subsequent overuse of these seeming wonder drugs has left its mark on our systems, contributing to the rise of what Blaser calls our modern plagues: obesity, asthma, allergies, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. Blaser’s studies suggest antibiotic use during early childhood poses the greatest risk to long-term health, and, alarmingly, American children receive on average seventeen courses of antibiotics before they are twenty years old. At the same time, C-sections deprive babies of important contact with their mothers’ microbiomes. Taking us into the lab to recount his groundbreaking studies, Blaser not only provides elegant support for his theory, he guides us to what we can do to avoid even more catastrophic health problems in the future.
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