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Author Maryn McKenna to Discuss Antibiotic Use in Livestock During 3rd Annual Microbiome Symposium

By: John Donges Date: Oct 3, 2016

Maryn McKenna[October 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA] – In the late 1940s, pharmaceutical companies seeking an additional market for newly achieved antibiotics happened on “growth promoters” – microdoses of antibiotics given to livestock that boosted the animals’ weight, got them to market faster, and jumpstarted profits for both pharma and agriculture. Today, many recognize the growth-promoter effect as a deliberate perturbation of the gut microbiome. While microbiome science has advanced enough to begin to explain the growth-promoter effect, public policy over whether and how to use agricultural antibiotics remains a global battleground.

Acclaimed journalist and author Maryn McKenna will discuss the history of antibiotic use in agriculture during the third annual Microbiome Symposium, presented by Penn Vet’s Center for Host-Microbial Interactions, the Perelman School of Medicine, and the PennCHOP Microbiome Program.

The two-day symposium will begin with McKenna’s talk, “Cheap Meat and the Microbiome: The Tangled History of Growth Promoter Antibiotics,” on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, from 6-7:30pm at Penn Vet’s Hill Pavilion (380 S. University Ave., Philadelphia). Admission to this event is FREE and open to the public, but registration is recommended at

Presentations for the scientific community will take place on Thursday, October 27, 2016, at the Biomedical Research Building (421 Curie Blvd., Philadelphia). Registration is available here.

McKenna specializes in public health, global health, and food policy. She has reported from inside a field hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, a bird catching and testing unit during the first advance of West Nile virus, a CDC team investigating the anthrax-letter attacks on Capitol Hill, and a polio-eradication team in India.

She is a contributor to National Geographic and writes for national and international magazines including WIRED, Scientific American, Modern Farmer, Slate, and Nature, among others. McKenna also is the author of award-winning books SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA and BEATING BACK THE DEVIL: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.

McKenna is a Senior Fellow of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. She received the 2014 Leadership Award from the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and the 2013 Byron H.  Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences. Her 2015 TED talk, "What do we do when antibiotics don't work any more?", has been viewed more than 1 million times.

This event is part of the University of Pennsylvania’s ongoing efforts in support of the One Health Initiative, which is dedicated to improving the lives of all species through the integration of human medicine, veterinary medicine, and environmental science.

About the Center for Host-Microbial Interactions

Penn Vet’s Center for Host-Microbial Interactions is designed to facilitate collaborative projects that leverage genomics to study the intersection of microbes and disease. In doing so, researchers gain insight into how bacteria, parasites, viruses, and other organisms interact with their animal and human hosts in ways that either maintain health or lead to disease. Each year, the Center invites researchers to submit proposals for funding. Additionally, the Center provides ongoing support and training for Penn Vet faculty and their labs to carry out analyses of the complex datasets generated by genomic approaches. For more information about the Center, click here.  

About Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center – which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report – Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital – the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.