As orange growers battle citrus greening disease with antibiotics, should we fear ‘super bugs’?

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California Dept of Food and Agriculture technician uses aspirator to collect Asian citrus psyllid samples from tangerine tree. Image: Watchara Phomicinda, Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
A pernicious disease is eating away at Roy Petteway’s orange trees. The bacterial infection, transmitted by a tiny winged insect from China, has evaded all efforts to contain it, decimating Florida’s citrus industry and forcing scores of growers out of business.

In a last-ditch attempt to slow the infection, Mr. Petteway revved up his industrial sprayer one recent afternoon and doused the trees with a novel pesticide: antibiotics used to treat …. a number of other illnesses in humans.

The E.P.A. has proposed allowing as much as 650,000 pounds of streptomycin to be sprayed on citrus crops each year. By comparison, Americans annually use 14,000 pounds of aminoglycosides, the class of antibiotics that includes streptomycin.

Related article:  Citrus Greening bacteria finally grown in the lab—key 'first step' to saving Florida's orange industry

Drug-resistant infections kill 23,000 Americans each year and sicken two million, according to the C.D.C. As more germs mutate …. the United Nations says resistant infections could claim 10 million lives globally by 2050, exceeding deaths from cancer.

As a fourth-generation grower, Mr. Petteway has more pressing concerns than the relatively abstract threat of antibiotic resistance “…. I’ve got to make sure all of this is here for my children and grandchildren.”

 

Read full, original article: Citrus Farmers Facing Deadly Bacteria Turn to Antibiotics, Alarming Health Officials

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