You have heard about antibiotic resistance? Well, if you haven’t, let me make it real simple for you to understand: We have pumped so many antibiotics into ourselves and into animals that our drugs aren’t as effective as they used to be. The bacteria that these drugs were supposed to kill have gotten wise to their tricks. FDA research shows that livestock use is a factor in increasing drug resistance in disease germs, because people give livestock a TON of antibiotics — over 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are given to farm animals. It’s what we historically have referred to as a giant fucking mess.
And, because no problem with the declining state of the natural world is complete without another problem compounding it and making it even more terrifying, scientists have recently discovered that the antibiotics given to cows find their way into their urine and feces then into the ground. Here’s how the experiment worked, according to an article in Discover:
[T]he team had the icky task of collecting urine and feces from cows dosed with [antibiotic] ceftiofur. When they mixed up cocktails of excrement and soil, they found that urine from treated cows killed off normal E. coli and encouraged the spread of the resistant ones. Thus, simply contaminating a patch of soil with pee may be enough to create resistant bacteria in the wild. And when dairy calves were given bedding sprayed with resistant E. coli, within a matter of days they showed resistant E. coli in their guts as well, showing how easily bacteria made resistant outside the cow’s body can leap into the cow’s guts.
So, bacteria are known to be very good about sharing their antibiotic-resistance genes with each other, kind of like the nifty way we can touch our iPhones together and get each other’s contact information. Except that what they do might bring about the end of the human race, whereas what we do is only annoying. So, the bottom line? Well, according to this article, farmers are going to have to start being more careful about where they toss the cow excrement. In theory they could also stop dosing up the cows with unnecessary antibiotics but ha ha ha that is nuts.