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19. Antimicrobials and agriculture

After thanking Dr. Lange for her help, Jeff realized that searching for the cause of his illness had just lead to more questions. He searched the Internet and medical journals for information on multi-drug resistant Salmonella infections. After wading through mounds of material, he consulted with Dr. Douglas, the state public health veterinarian. 

"Dr. Douglas, I knew that antibiotic resistance was a big problem in human medicine, and also was a problem in animals. But before I got sick, I didn’t think about the connection with foodborne diseases, or that I might get a resistant infection from animals treated with antibiotics. Now, after reading some of the literature, I am still somewhat confused."

Dr. Douglas thought for a while and replied, "Well, Jeff, antimicrobial resistance is an emerging problem in both human and veterinary medicine, and rarely can one single cause be identified for each resistance gene that we find.  When a person becomes infected with an antimicrobial-resistant pathogen, it is difficult to know precisely how that pathogen became resistant and how the person became infected.  For some pathogens that have food-animal reservoirs, such as Salmonella, most of the resistance is probably a consequence of antimicrobial use in food animals.”



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