“Maryn McKenna’s Superbug provides a heart-rending and enlightening portrait of the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Commonly imagined to be a disease that only affects elderly hospital patients, McKenna’s book shows that no area of the United States is untouched. Thirty percent of high school athletic programs in one survey reported MRSA. In another study, 80 percent of farms and 40 percent of pigs had MRSA. The consequences are horrific. In 2005, 94,360 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the United States, with almost 19,000 deaths.
“In the United States, the response to MRSA has been largely uncoordinated, and left to individual institutions, schools, and health care centers. American hospitals have tried a range of responses. Some hospitals have tied executive pay to staff hand-washing rates; others isolate patients with MRSA. Nationwide educational campaigns reduced antibiotic prescription rates temporarily, only to see them rise again. The pipeline for new antibiotics dried up due to economic disincentives for drug companies to invest in short-course medications like antibiotics. The medical system has not yet been able to contain antibiotic resistant pathogens like MRSA.
“The problem is just as dire on American farms. Limited action has been taken to reduce misuse of antibiotics in agriculture. While the FDA did ban agricultural usage of the powerful antibiotic fluoroquinalone, farms still regularly use powerful antibiotics as ‘growth promoters’ in daily feed for animals. This year, I introduced legislation, HR 1549, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which would take additional steps to protect seven medically-critical classes of antibiotics for human usage against MRSA and other antibiotic resistant pathogens. Maryn McKenna’s book is a powerful call to action.”