EDITOR’S NOTE: Cheryl Brock recently attended a screening of Resistance at The Academy Theater. Here is her review.
Antibiotics, the wonder drugs developed in the late 1920’s, changed the world for the better. Developed to fight infections, antibiotics saved untold numbers of lives over many decades. Yet so-called “super bugs,” antibiotic-resistant infections, are growing in numbers and killing people at alarming rates. What happened?
A new documentary, Resistance, explores these questions, and delivers accessible information and answers with a timely and thought-provoking film that will help spark conversation and positive change.
The film travels through the history of antibiotics, how these drugs were developed through growing mold that could dissolve bacteria. During World War II, antibiotics were widely used for treating battlefield wounds and pneumonia of soldiers. By the mid-1940s, the drugs became accessible to the general public.
Soon came the rise of industrial farming and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) confining and raising animals in limited spaces. The film draws attention to two issues with administrating antibiotics to animals in this setting: the continual use of low doses of antibiotics to keep animals infection-free; and administering drugs to add more weight to the animals.
With an impressive array of experts ranging from physicians, microbiologists and public health officials, we learn how the use and misuse of antibiotics created the current antibiotic-resistant infections. In one interview, Maryn McKenna, Senior Fellow of the Schuster Institute at Brandeis University and author of SUPERBUG, helps us understand antibiotic resistance. “Anytime an organism is exposed to something that is intended to kill it, that organism is going to try to find a way to escape from or protect itself against the thing that’s trying to kill it, ” McKenna explains.
Patient demand for these “wonder drugs” grew, and doctors found it easy to prescribe the drugs for a variety of symptoms without confirmation of a bacterial infection. We learn that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are used on conventional animal farms.
Woven into the facts and figures of the film are stories of families touched by antibiotic-resistant infections. Heartbreaking and hopeful, these are the faces and lives that drive the message home: people are getting sick and dying and this is a real problem.
The film seems overwhelming at times, yet the filmmaker has included how we can all participate in the solution. By careful use of antibiotics only when needed, and replacing conventionally-raised meat with organic and grass-fed meat, we can help stop antibiotic resistance, saving these wonder drugs for when they are really needed.
The screening of Resistance was presented by Slow Food Portland, Friends of Family Farmers, and Food & Water Watch. The film will soon be available for home viewing. See www.resistancethefilm.com.