31 December 2009

MRSA in pets - a closer look

From the research team at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College — who have probably done more than any other group to elucidate MRSA in companion animals — comes a look at MRSA infections in dogs.

In order to get better data, the team used a study model that is much-employed in human epidemiology — and has often been used for MRSA — but under-employed in veterinary medicine: a case-control study matching MRSA infections against MSSA, or drug-sensitive staph. Studies matching MRSA against MSSA have been able, for instance, to show that certain (human) MRSA infections have higher death rates, keep patients in the hospital longer, and cause more healthcare expense.

The Guelph team used the same method to compare the presentation and outcome for 40 MRSA-infected dogs and 80 dogs with MSSA who were seen between 2001 and 2007 in three veterinary hospitals, in Guelph, Philadelphia and Boston. Their verdict:
MRSA is an emerging problem in dogs, and the risk factors for MRSA infections are similar to those in humans, particularly the use of IV catheters and both beta-lactam and fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

The researchers were not able to say whether MRSA in dogs causes more deaths than MSSA, because the infections that were recorded by the hospitals were mostly superficial ones in skin and ears:
Infection types for which death would be a more realistic possible outcome were limited... Comparison of mortality rates between patients with MRSA or MSSA infections would be best performed among on ly those with invasive infections and should be considered for future studies. Here, mortality rate information was obtained retrospectively and only recorded up to the time of discharge. Therefore, whether dogs died from their infections after discharge from the referral hospital, causing an underestimate of deaths, is unknown.
Dr. Scott Weese, senior author of this paper and chief of the Guelph group, has an excellent blog on infections in companion animals, called Worms and Germs. (It's in the blogroll.) And if you are looking for further information on MRSA in pets, the best resource I know of is the UK-based, but international, Bella Moss Foundation, named for a dog that died of a MRSA infection.

30 December 2009

Antibiotics in chickens and links to human infections

From the January issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the CDC (and therefore free. Must I keep urging you to read it? Go, already), here's a roundup of bad news about bad bugs.

In Canada, researchers from that country's Public Health Agency have found a "strong correlation" between the use of ceftiofur, a third-generation cephalosporin, in chickens; the rates of a resistant strain of Salmonella in chickens; and the appearance of that same strain in humans. The strain is Salmonella enterica serovar Heidelberg, one of the most common salmonella strains in North America, and one which can be nasty: It may cause mild illness, but also causes septicemia and myocarditis and can kill. Quebec created an unplanned natural experiment: Hatcheries there were broadly using ceftiofur until 2004, backed off from its use in 2005 and 2006, and then began using it again in 2007 in response to a growing problem with a particular infection. When the drug was withdrawn, resistant infections in birds and humans plunged; when it was reintroduced, they rose again. (Look at the black and red lines in the graph above left.)

Meanwhile, broiler chickens in Iceland are passing fluoroquinolone-resistant E. coli to humans there. Researchers at the University of Iceland were puzzled by an earlier finding that bacteria resistant to fluoroquinolones (a family that includes the human drug Cipro) were increasing among chickens raised in Iceland, despite strict controls on antibiotic use in food animals and stringent disinfection in chicken batteries after cohorts of birds were sold for slaughter and removed. They have two findings: The source of the resistant bacteria in the birds appears to be feed contaminated with resistant E. coli; and resistant bacteria in Iceland residents are microbiologically indistinguishable from those in the birds. Because E. coli is a very diverse organism, the very close resemblance between the isolates from chickens and the isolates from humans pins chickens as the likely source.

And just to make clear we're not blaming every microbiological evil on farming: Seagulls in Portugal have been found carrying multi-drug resistant E. coli in their feces. The public health concern here is obvious: Just think back to the last time you were at a beach, or anywhere else seagulls frequent, and envision a seagull perch — and the masses of seagull droppings streaking it. Now imagine those droppings transmitting antibiotic-resistant E. coli into the surrounding environment: the boardwalk, the beach, the towels... Additional problem: Seagulls are migratory birds, so the resistant bacteria easily cross borders and oceans.

29 December 2009

Another resistant bug rising: Acinetobacter

From the excellent and forward-thinking research team at Extending the Cure comes a dismaying report: over 7 years, a more than 3-fold increase in resistance in the Gram-negative bacterium Acinetobacter baumanii to its drug of last resort, imipenem.

Because MRSA is a Gram-positive, we don't talk much here about the Gram-negatives — the two categories of bacteria have different cell-wall structures and thus are treated using different categories of drugs. (That structural difference causes them to react in different ways to a stain invented by a scientist named Gram in the 19th century.) But the resistance situation with Gram-negatives is at least as dire as with MRSA, possible more so, because there are fewer new drugs for Gram-negatives in the pharmacology pipeline (as discussed in a New Yorker article by Dr. Jerome Groopman last year.)

And Acinetobacter is one nasty bug, as science journalist Steve Silberman ably documented in Wired in 2007 when he traced the spread of the organism through the military medical-evacuation chain from Iraq, demonstrating that the vast increase in resistant Acinetobacter among US forces was due to our own poor infection control.

The Extending the Cure paper (which will be published in February in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology) puts hard numbers to the Acinetobacter problem. Drawing on data from the private Surveillance Network, which gathers real-time electronic results from 300 US hospitals, they find:
  • full resistance to imipenem rose from 4.5% of isolates in 1999 to 18.2% in 2006 — a 300% increase
  • intermediate resistance rose from 1.3% of isolates to 9.4 — a 623% increase
  • susceptible isolates declined from 94.1% to 72.4% — a 23% decrease.
The authors write:
Our results demonstrate substantial national and regional increases in carbapenem resistance among clinical isolates of Acinetobacter species over the period 1999–2006. Increasing carbapenem resistance among Acinetobacter species is particularly troubling, because it is very often associated with multidrug resistance and because it is occurring in the context of increases in the incidence of Acinetobacter infection.

There's a further point to be made that is not explicit in the paper that I can see (though it is often made by Extending the Cure researchers). Acinetobacter needs attention, just as MRSA does — but if we focus just on the individual organisms, we are not going far enough. Antibiotic resistance is a system problem: It is an issue of infection control, of drug development, of agricultural organization, of federal priorities. It needs sustained attention and comprehensive, thoughtful, wide-ranging response. Now would not be too soon.

28 December 2009

One surgical infection with MRSA: $61,000

From a multi-state, public-private research team — Duke University, Wayne State University, and the Durham, NC VA — comes a precise and alarming calculation of MRSA's costs in hospitals: For one post-surgery infection, $61,681.

The group compared the course, costs and final outcome of three matched groups of patients from one tertiary-care center and six community hospitals in one infection-control network run by Duke. The three groups were: patients with a MRSA surgical-site infection; patients with a surgical-site infection (SSI) due to MSSA, drug-sensitive staph; and surgery patients who did not experience infections, matched to the other two groups by hospital, type of procedure, and year when the procedure took place. (This same cohort has been described in an earlier prospective study that looked at risks for MRSA SSIs.) Altogether, there were 150 patients with MRSA SSIs, 128 with MSSA SSIs, and 231 uninfected surgery patients to serve as controls.

Here's what they found. Patients with post-surgical MRSA infections:
  • stayed in the hospital 23 days longer
  • incurred an average extra cost of $61,681
  • were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 90 days
  • were more likely to die before 90 days had passed.
The authors write:
Our study represents the largest study to date of outcomes due to SSI due to MRSA. Our findings confirm that SSIs due to MRSA lead to significant patient suffering and provide quantitative estimates of the staggering costs of these infections. SSI due to MRSA led to a 7-fold increased risk of death, a 35-fold increased risk of hospital readmission, more than 3 weeks of additional hospitalization, and more than $60,000 of additional charges compared to uninfected controls.
For just the patients in this study, the excess costs (across 7 hospitals) totalled $19 million.

This is a highly useful study on several axes. First, remarkably, there has not been agreement over whether and how much of a problem MRSA poses in post-surgical settings, particularly when compared to drug-sensitive staph. This study provides careful, thoughtful, well-documented proof that combating MRSA infection is worthwhile. (NB, MRSA infections did not increase the risk of death relative to MSSA infections, which should remind us both of the often-forgotten virulence of MSSA, and also that MRSA's perils can lie in extended illness and disability as much or more as in early death.) Second, by putting a very specific number on the cost of a post-surgical MRSA infection, it gives healthcare administrators a benchmark against which they can judge the cost of a prevention program. We've all heard complaints that prevention programs can be costly and their benefit is hard to measure in a bottom-line way. With this very specific number, that complaint should no longer be valid.

There's a final point that is implied in the paper but not called out, so let me call it out on the authors' behalf. These results are very likely an under-estimate of MRSA's costs. That's because, first, the specific procedures the patients underwent were cardiothoracic and orthopedic; those are not the surgical procedures most likely to be followed by a MRSA infection. And second, data collection for this study ceased in 2003, about a year after the first emergence of USA300 and several years before that very successful community strain began its current move into hospitals. However much MRSA was extant in 2003, there is more now.

The cite is: Anderson DJ, Kaye KS, Chen LF, Schmader KE, Choi Y, et al. 2009 Clinical and Financial Outcomes Due to Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Surgical Site Infection: A Multi-Center Matched Outcomes Study. PLoS ONE 4(12): e8305. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008305

26 December 2009

SUPERBUG now on Kindle!

Constant readers — any of you who are Kindle users can now find SUPERBUG the blog in the Kindle store. I placed it there today; it may take 48 hours for it to propagate through the system.

SUPERBUG the book will of course be on Kindle as well, in March. Stay tuned!

24 December 2009

Holiday gratitude, and a brief blogging break

Constant readers, my warmest greetings for Christmas or whatever winter holiday you celebrate! You are high on the list of the many gifts in my life. Thank you for gathering here and contributing to this truly international community of concern about antibiotic resistance.

I'll be back early next week with news of two fascinating new studies. Snow-dusted (12" and rising here) holiday wishes 'til then.

16 December 2009

A plea, and not for me: Support ProMED

Constant readers, I don't often ask you for anything — OK, I did ask you to consider an advance buy of SUPERBUG, but that's a win-win for all of us, right?

But today I'm going to ask you for something, and I hope you'll trust me that it, too, is a win-win all 'round.

ProMED Mail, the disease early-warning website and listserv of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, is having its annual fundathon. If you have any cash to spare, I would like you to consider making a small donation. Here's why. Here on the net:

We value crowdsourcing
. In the disease world, ProMED has been doing that longer and better than anyone. Their network of volunteer spotters — physicians, epidemiologists, animal-health experts, journalists and engaged citizens — has been running since 1994.

We value passion
. ProMED has more than 30 expert editors, all significant researchers in their respective specialties, who comb through those crowdsourced reports to find them gems. They all have lives and more than full-time jobs already. And they don't do this for glory: They don't even attach their names to their pieces, just their initials. (Among ProMED aficionados, it's a moment of insider glee to spot the initials and translate them to an important name.)

We value reach
. ProMED has more than 57,000 subscribers, each of them a potential contributor, in 187 countries. It runs sub-lists of news with articles relevant to particular parts of the world, volunteer-translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, and French (for West Africa), and also runs sublists in English of articles relevant to the Mekong Basin and to English-speaking East Africa.

More than anything, we value effectiveness — and as a subscriber since sometime in the 1990s, I can testify that ProMED delivers. The listserv is the primary reason that the government of China fessed up to the existence of the international epidemic of SARS in spring 2003, after attempting to conceal its burgeoning outbreak for almost six months. ProMED pried loose that admission simply by posting a note from within its network: a question from a pseudonymous man in southern China that was relayed to an acquaintance in northern California and then to an epidemiologist in Annapolis who sent it to ProMED. (That story is told in my book Beating Back the Devil, and you can read it in this excerpt here.)

That is the power of a network, and that's why ProMED deserves our support.

15 December 2009

Antibiotics in animals - a warning from the poultry world

Constant reader Pat Gardiner guided me to an enlightening post at the website of the agricultural magazine World Poultry that questions the routine use of antibiotics in food animals. It's written by Wiebe van der Sluis, a Netherlands journalist from a farming background, founder of World Poultry and also the magazines Pig Progress and Poultry Processing.

The Netherlands, let's recall, is the place where MRSA ST398 first emerged, and also the place where that livestock-MRSA strain has caused the most serious human cases and triggered the largest changes in hospital infection-control practices. In the Netherlands, swine farmers and veterinarians are considered serious infection risks because of their exposure to animals, and are pre-emptively isolated when they check into hospitals until they can be checked for MRSA colonization.

Van der Sluis takes seriously the tie between the use of antibiotics in animals and the emergence of MRSA:
Although most of the time MRSA is linked to pig production, it is also related to the veal and poultry industry. The industry, therefore, cannot shrug its shoulders and move on if nothing was wrong. In this case it would be wise to redefine the term prudent use of antibiotics. Time is up for those who use antibiotics to cover up bad management, poor housing conditions or insufficient health care. The standard rule should be: Do not use antibiotics unless there is a serious health issue and no other remedy applies. Veterinary practitioners, who usually authorise producers to use antibiotics, should also take responsibility and prevent unnecessary antibiotic use and the development of antibiotic resistance in animals and humans.
It's unusual in the US context so hear someone so immersed in agriculture speak so candidly about antibiotic use. It's refreshing.

14 December 2009

Guest Q&A: Dr. Brad Spellberg and RISING PLAGUE

I'm thrilled today to present another guest blogger: Dr. Brad Spellberg, associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and author of the new book Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them (Prometheus Books). This new book is important reading for anyone concerned, as all of us are here, about the narrowing pipeline for new antibiotics against MRSA and other resistant pathogens. That pipeline problem is something Dr. Spellberg knows well: He is not only a practicing infectious-disease physician, but also a member of the Antimicrobial Availability Task Force of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the specialty society that produced the "Bad Bugs" reports that I've posted on before.

Below, Dr. Spellberg thoughtfully answers some questions about the difficulties of treating resistant infections and of developing drugs to control them.

From your point of view as a practicing ID physician, why is it so difficult to prevent resistant infections?

It's difficult to prevent all infections period. Not more difficult to prevent infections caused by resistant organisms than any other organisms. However, also difficult to prevent the spread of resistance among bacteria that are causing infections.

So, why is it difficult? People have this crazy belief that hospital acquired infections are the result of sloppy medicine. Not so. They are the result of very sick people with tremendously sophisticated levels of intensive medical care being delivered in a concentrated environment (i.e., a hospital). Crowd a bunch of sick people together with plastic catheters, mechanical ventilators, and nasty bacteria, and such infections are inevitable. What we are learning is that we have to go above and beyond normal to stop these infections from happening. Research is needed on how best to do this. It's not as simple as people think.

You can't stop the spread of the resistance itself. It is inevitable.

You say in Rising Plague that physician misuse and overuse of antibiotics is not the cause of antibiotic resistance. What do you consider the primary driver?

This is by far the biggest misperception among the public. Let's start from first principles. Who invented antibiotics? Who invented antibiotic resistance? When were both invented?

Humans did NOT invent antibiotics. Bacteria did...about 2 billion years ago. And they invented antibiotic resistance at the same time. So, bacteria have been creating and defeating antibiotics for 20 million times longer than humans have even known that antibiotics exist (about 78 years, as the original sulfa compound was developed in late 1931 by Gerhard Domagk). Over the past 2 billion years, bacteria warring among themselves have learned to target virtually every targetable biochemical pathway with antibiotics, and have learned to create defense mechanisms to defeat virtually all such antibiotics. They are already resistant to drugs we haven't even developed yet. It is bacteria that cause antibiotic resistance, not humans.

What humans do, is we apply natural selection when we use antibiotics. We kill off susceptible bacteria, leaving behind already resistant bacteria to replicate and spread their resistance genes.

This may seem like a subtle distinction: We don't create antibiotic resistance, we just increase its rate of spread. But, from the perspective of effective response planning, this is a critical distinction. If inappropriate antibiotic use caused antibiotic resistance, all we would have to do to defeat resistance is never prescribe drugs inappropriately. Unfortunately, that won't work. All antibiotic prescription, even appropriate antibiotic prescription, increases selective pressure, which increases the rate of spread of resistance.

Eliminating inappropriate antibiotic use, and always using antibiotics appropriately is indeed critical, because it will slow the spread of resistance, buying us time to develop new antibiotics. But if 100% of our efforts are focused on antibiotic conservation, all we will achieve is a slowing of the inevitable exhaustion of the antibiotic resource. What is needed is to marry antibiotic conservation with antibiotic restoration. That is, we need new drugs to be developed. Just conserving what we have is not enough.

Why are "antibiotic stewardship" policies not a sufficient remedy for controlling resistance?

See above. Stewardship leads to conservation. That is half the battle, but by itself it will only lead to a slowing of the inevitable exhaustion of the resource.

Furthermore, the initial calls for stewardship were made by people like Max Finland in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This is not a new call. It's more than a half century old. It just doesn't work very well. An analogy is the temptation to say that we don't need condoms to stop the spread of STDs, we just need abstinence. It is true that abstinence will stop the spread of STDs. But, an abstinence-only policy just doesn't work. You've got to have the condoms too. Well, stewardship, by itself, just hasn't worked after more than 60 years of calls for it. It is too hard to change behavior, and the pressures on physicians not to be wrong about their patients' illnesses is too great.

What do you consider the chief impediments to developing newer/better antibiotics?

The two major impediments are: 1) economic, and 2) regulatory.

The primary economic impediment is that antibiotics have a lower rate of return on investment than other classes of drugs. You make a lot more money back on your R&D investment if the drug is taken every day for the rest of the patient's life (e.g. cholesterol, hypertension, dementia, arthritis) than if it is taken for 7 days and then the patient stops because he/she is cured.

The regulatory problem is a startling degree of confusion at the FDA regarding what types of clinical trials should be conducted ot lead to approval of new antibiotics. There has been a total rethinking of antibiotic clinical trials at the FDA over the past 5 years. Right now, companies don't know what trials they are supposed to do to get drugs done, and increasingly the standards are calling for infeasible study designs that simply can't be conducted. This revisionist thinking is being driven by statisticians who know nothing about clinical medicine or patient care. They are asking for things to be done that can't be done to human beings. The balance of clinical and statistical concerns is totally out of whack, and must be restored if this problem is to be solved.

What types of policies are needed to kick-start development of new antibiotics?

Simple. Solutions follow the problems above.

For the economic problem, we need Congress to pass legislation that creates special economic incentives for companies to re-enter the antibiotic R&D market. The return on investment calculation must be changed. Antibiotics are a unique, critical public health need. Congress should recognize this. Examples of programs that would work include increase in funding to scientists (e.g. via NIH) who study bacterial resistance and antibiotic development. Increased small business grants to help translate basic science discoveries to lead compound antibiotics. Tax credits, guaranteed markets, patent extensions, and prizes to serve as pull strategies to help companies improve the return on investment for antibiotics.

For the regulatory problem, Congress needs to stop hammering the FDA into a state of paralysis, where fear permeates every decision to approve a drug. We should be encouraging a balance between statistical concerns and clinical concerns, and we need to restore a sense that the agency is regulating drugs used by physicians for patients, and that trials showing those drugs are safe and effective must be feasible to conduct and relevant to how the drugs will be used in clinical medicine after they are approved.

12 December 2009

Book news: SUPERBUG available for pre-order!

Constant readers: To my complete surprise, SUPERBUG is up on Amazon!

Mind you, the page is almost blank. The cover image has not been added; the flap copy hasn't even been finalized; and my bio is out of date. (For an up-to-date bio, visit my Amazon author page, where posts from here will soon be mirrored.)

Nevertheless, there it is — and at a lovely pre-release deep discount (34%!) too.

I had plans to roll out news about the book over the next two months, but this has scooped me, a bit. So here's the first bit of news, which you'll see confirmed on the Amazon page: We finally decided on a subtitle. So the full title of the book now is:

SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA

Has a nice ring to it, no?

Here's something else this scoops me on: the release date. SUPERBUG will be published on March 23, 2010.

And here's an important detail: My own experience with Amazon orders has been that pre-orders are not only discounted — they also move out from Amazon very quickly as release date approaches. So if you'd like to get a copy of SUPERBUG into your hand as soon as can be, a pre-order is one sure way to do it. (Plus, it makes my publisher happy.)

$17.16, folks. 34% off! How can you go wrong?

10 December 2009

Bad news from California: MRSA quadrupled

Via the Fresno Business Journal and the Torrance Daily Breeze come reports of a new study by California's Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development: Known MRSA cases in the state's hospitals increased four-fold between 1999 and 2007, from 13,000 to 52,000 cases per year.

From the Torrance paper:
The good news is that the percentage of people who die of MRSA has decreased, from about 35 percent in 1999 to 24 percent in 2007. The raw number of deaths, however, more than doubled to about 12,500. (Byline: Melissa Evans)
From the Fresno paper (no byline):
Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties were among 38 counties in California that had 61 to 80% of patients with staph infections.
Only one county, Sierra, fared worse. Eight-one to 100% of patients ended up with staph infections in that county’s hospitals.
In 1999, Kings and Madera counties were in the 0 to 20% range and Fresno and Tulare counties were in the 21 to 40% range.

09 December 2009

My guest-post elsewhere: Bad news on hospital error rates

It's been 10 years since the publication of the pathbreaking Institute of Medicine report, "To Err is Human," which for the first time focused policy attention on medical errors. The Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative has been running a two-week special series of posts to mark the occasion, and they very kindly asked me to contribute.

Here's a link to my guest-post, "Hospital Error Rates — Still a Long Way To Go," looking at a recent paper and editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association that reported very discouraging results in rates of infections in ICUs worldwide. (And, umm, yes, that is what I look like.)

While you're there, please take a look also at another guest post by my good friend Nancy Shute, former staff writer and now blogger for US News & World Report, who discusses the difficulty of speaking up as a patient, based on her own experience in the hospital last summer. It's very worth a read.

03 December 2009

NEJM: Antibiotics for pneumonia in H1N1

The New England Journal of Medicine has been running an open-access blog on H1N1 flu, and they've put up a post on when to give antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial pneumonia, including MRSA pneumonia, in flu patients.

There's a table of key clinical points to consider, and these important points are made:
For the child or adult admitted to a hospital intensive care unit in respiratory distress, we believe that empirical initial therapy with broad-spectrum antibiotics to include coverage for MRSA, as well as Streptococcus pneumoniae and other common respiratory pathogens, is appropriate.
For the previously healthy child or adult with influenza who requires admission to a community hospital and has features that suggest a secondary pneumonia (Table 1), we would recommend empirical treatment with a drug such as intravenous second- or third-generation cephalosporin, after an effort has been made to prove the association with influenza and to get adequate lower respiratory tract specimens for Gram’s stain and bacterial culture.
If the Gram’s stain suggests the presence of staphylococci or if there is a rapidly progressive or necrotizing pneumonia, an additional antimicrobial agent to cover MRSA is appropriate. ...
We do not believe that initial coverage for MRSA is indicated in all patients who are thought to have secondary bacterial pneumonia.
So, to recap:
  • Development of apparent pneumonia in the presence of flu should be met with antibiotics that will treat drug-sensitive bacteria, along with a test to show which bacteria are causing the illness.
  • If staph is present (or the pneumonia appears very serious), then the antibiotics should be upped to one that can control MRSA.
  • But if the pneumonia is serious enough to send a patient straight to the ICU, then drugs that can quell MRSA should be started right away.

For anyone concerned about pneumonia in the aftermath of H1N1, this is worth bookmarking.

01 December 2009

Wednesday a.m.: Congressional briefing on antibiotics in livestock - live-tweeted!

Folks: On Wednesday 2 December, at 9:30 a.m. EST, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) will host a Congressional briefing about antibiotic use in food animals. As a reminder, Rep. Slaughter is an MPH and Congress's only microbiologist, and the chief sponsor of PAMTA, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act that proposes restricting antibiotic use in animals to therapeutic uses under the guidance of a veterinarian and phases out "growth promotion" with sub-therapeutic doses, which consumes millions of pounds of antibiotics every year, many of them close analogs to human drugs.

Appearing at the briefing along with Rep. Slaughter are leaders of efforts that have produced an important string of reports on antibiotic overuse — the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and the Extending the Cure project of Resources for the Future:
  • Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH–former Vice Chair, Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production; Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS (ret.); Former Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.
  • Robert Lawrence, MD–Director, The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.
  • Ramanan Laxminarayan, PhD, MPH–Senior Fellow, Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy, Resources for the Future, Washington, DC
  • Robert Martin–Senior officer, Pew Environmental Group; former Executive Director, Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, Washington, DC
  • Lance Price, PhD– Director, Center for Metagenomics and Human Health, Translational Genomics Research Institute, Flagstaff, AZ
Here's a post explaining the importance of this issue from the blog of the Center for a Livable Future, a Johns Hopkins University research group that has produced some of the most mportant papers on leakage of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic residues from CAFOs ("confined" or "concentrated" "animal-feeding operations" — very, very large-scale farms). And here's some video on the issue from last summer from Lou Dobbs Tonight.

Because the event Wednesday is an informational briefing, not a hearing, I can't find any link for a live webcast. (I'll update if I find one.) But the hearing will be live-tweeted by the staff of the Center for a Livable Future (@LivableFuture) at the hashtag #CLF09. BLOGGERS: They will take tweeted questions toward the end of the hearing, ~10:45 a.m. — use the hashtag.