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In March, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) reintroduced “The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act” (also known as PAMTA). The full title of the bill is: “To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials used in the treatment of human and animal diseases.”

Rep. Slaughter is currently the only microbiologist in Congress, and this bill she has introduced for the fourth time since 2007 would prevent the non-therapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics in food animal production… as antibiotics in poultry feed, for instance. Why is this a good idea? Use of antibiotics in animal and poultry feed contributes to the human immune system’s inability to resist certain harmful viruses, such as Carbapenem Resistant Enterovirus (CRE). In addition, some viruses have a tendency to change and mutate, depending upon a host of factors–and if or when they become resistant to antibiotics used to quash them, then it’s back to the drawing board for medical science not only presenting a challenge for populations, communities, hospitals and health professionals–but raising the costs of the cure.

The current bill covers eight (8) classes of antibiotics which Rep. Slaughter wants banned from non-therapeutic uses. The legislation also defines what non-therapeutic uses are, “to ensure that any use of medically important antibiotics outside of treatment of a sick animal is not permitted.” (Food Safety News, March 15, 2013) If enacted, this is one piece of legislation that should be very good for the public health, it would seem; i.e., people should not receive antibiotics which they have not been prescribed– and when the poultry or livestock consume feed with antibiotics, those antibiotics–and their effects–can be passed on to the consumer who eats the meat or drinks the milk.

According to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) recent survey, during the past ten years, there has been a “significant increase in cephalosporin resistance, especially on chicken and turkey products.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently decided to “limit the off-label use of cephalosporins in food animals.” (Food Safety News, March 15, 2013)

Currently, one government legislation-tracking website gives this bill a 1% chance of making it out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to which it was referred for review. The World Health Organization (WHO), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Academy of Sciences, along with 450 other outside groups, support this legislation. But it appears, as with other legislation promulgated in the best interests of the American people, it may simply languish in committee, as the current Congress's legislative gridlock continues.

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