Human Vs. Cow In Battle Over Antibiotic

row of cows
Infectious disease specialists are concerned that using antibiotics for cattle may deprive humans of life-saving treatments.

It's a battle over the health of cattle versus humans.

The Food and Drug Administration is moving towards approval of an antibiotic drug called Cefquinome for use in cows being shipped for slaughter, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.

But infectious disease experts are sounding an alarm.

"We're squandering this," says Dr. Martin Blaser, an infectious disease specialist. "We're wasting one of our most powerful antibiotics."

Cefquinome is a member of a very potent class of antibiotics, oftem a medicine of last resort for humans.

"It's used to treat a number of infections that plague cancer patients and other very seriously ill patients," says Rebecca Goldberg, an environmental biologist.

If Cefquinome is used in cows, infectious disease experts believe it could create bacteria that become resistant to the drug. The resistant bacteria could then be passed on to humans who eat undercooked beer of dairy products, add Pinkston.

"Antibiotic resistance is just increasing and increasing," says Dr. Blaser.

In a statement, the FDA insists, "If there is credible scientific evidence that use of an antibiotic in livestock poses a health threat to people, the FDA will take every possible measure to protect human health, including not approving a new antibiotic for livestock."

Critics say the FDA's own guidelines make it likely that Cefquinome will be approved over the objections of the American Medical Association and the FDA's own scientific advisory panel.

That's what happened a decade ago, reports Pinkston, when, under different guidelines, the FDA approved an antibiotic for poultry, which created an antibiotic resistant form of salmonella

"The FDA should say 'no' to any drug if there is a risk to human health," says Goldberg.

After proof that food poisoning victims were resistant to antibiotics similar to the poultry drug, the FDA did a 180 and banned its use. This time around, critics are hoping history doesn't repeat itself witht he new antibiotic for cattle.