RIT to host program on drug-resistant bacteria

Cindee Gray

The impact of drug-resistant “superbugs” on public health will be explored at Rochester Institute of Technology on March 12 in an evening program hosted by RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology, Rochester Regional Health System and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

Superbugs are bacteria that have grown resistant to antibiotics through the overuse of antibiotics on farms and in medical settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that bacteria associated with tuberculosis, gonorrhea and staph infections have developed resistance over the last few decades. According to the CDC, drug-resistant infections in the United States annually exceed 2 million cases and result in approximately 23,000 deaths.

The public-information event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a reception outside Panara Theatre in the National Technical Institute for the Deaf Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall on the RIT campus. Slaughter and RIT President Bill Destler at 6:30 p.m. will welcome the public and present a special screening of the documentary RESISTANCE by filmmaker Michael Graziano and UJI Films.

The film features Slaughter’s legislative work to preserve antibiotics for human health by curtailing their use in otherwise healthy livestock. Slaughter has led this effort since 2007 and has the support of over 450 groups including the American Medical Association, PEW Research Center and the National Resources Defense Council.

“I am honored to be joining RIT, Rochester Regional Health System, Michael Graziano and other local experts for a discussion about this increasingly dire public health issue,” Slaughter said. “Antibiotic resistance and the growth of superbugs is an imminent health crisis and cannot be ignored. There must be outrage from the public citizenry calling for better practices to protect our health. We can and must address this issue now, and stopping the overuse of antibiotics on the farm is a smart first step.”

Cindee Gray, assistant vice president for the RIT and Rochester Regional Health System Alliance, organized the event to educate the community about the issue.

“Since 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are used on healthy farm animals to make them grow larger and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions—a process that causes bacteria to mutate and become resistant to antibiotic treatment—any serious effort to address resistance must include overuse on farms,” Gray said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate drug-resistant infections in the United States cost around $55 billion a year in excess health care and other societal costs, Gray added.

Following the screening of the documentary, filmmaker Graziano will join an expert panel of scientists and medical doctors to discuss the challenge and cost of dealing with drug-resistant bacteria. Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability adviser at RIT, will moderate the panel, which includes:

  • Jerry Bertoldo, veterinarian and senior extension associate at Cornell University’s Daily Livestock and Fields Crops Team
  • Dr. Byron Kennedy, commissioner of public health at the Monroe County Department of Health
  • Jeffrey Lodge, associate professor in the Thomas Gosnell School of Life Sciences in RIT’s College of Science
  • Robert Osgood, associate professor of biomedical sciences in RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology
  • Dr. Edward Walsh, chief of the infectious disease unit at Rochester General Hospital and professor at University of Rochester Medical School

The event is sponsored by the RIT College of Health Sciences and Technology, College of Science, School of Film and Animation in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Rochester Regional Health System, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Wegmans.

For more information about the event, contact Cindee Gray at csggrl@rit.edu. For a map of the RIT campus, go to http://www.rit.edu/fa/facilities/content/campus-maps.

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