Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

Nation is overdosed on antibiotics

August 18, 2013

Tags: antibiotic misuse, antibiotic overuse, antibiotics in meat, livestock, antibiotics in food, antibiotic resistance

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First published in print: 08/17/2013

"Take two cheeseburgers and call me in the morning."

That's appallingly bad medical advice to give patients who may be suffering bacterial infections and requiring antibiotics. Still, you have to wonder about that prospect, if only imaginatively, when you consider the enormous amount of antibiotics pumped into our country's meat supply.

Indeed, according to the FDA, a whopping 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics were administered to our livestock in 2011 -- fourfold more than the 7.3 million pounds used to treat humans. Just imagine the greater appeal (for non-vegetarians) of spooning up chili-con-carne to treat pneumonia, compared to forking over $100 for some nasty-tasting antibiotic. Or feasting on lamb stew to cure cellulitis, rather than stewing over side effects from prescription antimicrobials.

But, clearly, that's not how things work. Livestock aren't inert containers that simply store all the antibiotics we dump into them. Instead, like humans, animals ingest, metabolize, and eliminate antibiotics from their bodies.

And, also like humans, animals naturally harbor millions of bacteria within their bodies, and those bacteria are affected by antibiotics consumed by the animals. Consequently, sensitive bacteria are killed off, while insensitive others proliferate. Some bacteria with Darwinian survival skills genetically mutate, gaining resistance against the antibiotics to which they've been exposed. (more…)

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Douglas' HPV disclosure should prompt education

August 11, 2013

Tags: Michael Douglas, HPV, human papillomavirus, cancer, throat cancer

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First published in print: 08/03/2013

Eyebrows were raised when actor Michael Douglas announced in June that his throat cancer had been caused by an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) acquired from having oral sex. Some people cringed or wondered whether Douglas was merely mouthing off about his purportedsexual exploits. Others shouted "TMI!" not wanting to envision ... well, you know. And a sizable group of cynics questioned whether a viral infection could truly cause a cancer.

But throughout the ensuing media coverage, Douglas's claims have been subject to considerable public scrutiny. Scientists have solidly reaffirmed the role of HPV in causing cancers of the throat. (more…)

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