How we’ll survive now antibiotics don’t work

Doctor washing
No more pills – from now on, everything gets done the hard way

Scary stuff this.

No safety net. Like driving on bald tyres.

Any accident, any surgery, any infection, any fever – we’re on our own. Either our immune systems will handle it, or they won’t. Game over.

End of the line

Because now there’s no more failsafe. No last second backup. Real Friday 13th.

No more silly buggers, the Doc can’t save you if your misadventure goes pear-shaped. The cupboard is empty.

Don’t believe it?

Already we’ve got MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – the scourge of every hospital and big bogey of AMR – antimicrobial resistance. This superbug lives naturally in your nose, for goodness sake.

Wipe your face, then touch a cut – and you’re up a gum tree.

Because methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin – take any of them and the bug might get even stronger.

And MRSA is just one of our regular 9-to-5 infections. Other AMR stars appearing daily include salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli. All of them can kill if we’re not careful – and that doesn’t include the heavy brigade like botulism or cholera.

Over-use and abuse

How did these bacteria get so smart?

Well, we’ve been chucking antibiotics at them on an industrial scale for more than 50 years – plenty of time to learn.

Sure thing, a lot of that is in medicine – we’re a growing cult of pill-poppers. These days the average teenager might be on a course of antibiotics say, five times a year.

Hypochondriac grown-ups are worse – or should that be “cyberchondriacs?” The Internet breeds self-diagnosing adults who demand antibiotics so strongly, there’s doctors and chemists who fear for life and limb.

But agriculture is the real villain. 65,000 tons a year and more to bulk up animals for market – beef, pork, mutton, poultry – right across the board. It’s in plants too –from “natural” recycled animal waste. Over-use big time.

Which also means like it or not – carnivore or vegetarian – we’re all on antibiotics already, absorbed through the food chain. And have been ALL OUR LIVES.

Always read the label, remember? Do not take continuously for more than ten days without consulting a physician.

What the heck, we’ve OD’d all our lives!

Living mutations

No wonder our metabolisms are so different from our grandparents’ – weaker, less resilient, more prone to allergies and minor ailments, ballooning to obesity. Our internal bacteria have mutated so much, we’re hardly the same kind of human beings.

Because if it takes only twenty minutes for a bacterium to adapt and evolve to a new generation, that’s around 438,000 mutations learning how to survive antibiotics since they were first used – they should have got it right by now.

So yeah, antibiotics don’t work any more. And since we’re surrounded by billions and billions of bacteria every second – even colonised inside by over 100 trillion – washing our hands is a start.

Wash ’em off so we don’t infect cuts or swallow anything nasty. Wash, wash, wash.

The sloppy hygiene factor

But there’s a problem, and it’s us.

We touch everything everywhere without thinking of these bacteria. From one second to the next, we never think we’re contaminated. Our hands LOOK clean, so we don’t bother.

Sure, we used to get away with it – the Doc back-stopping us with a load of wonder-drugs. But not any more.

So we’re already in big trouble. From our own sloppy hygiene.

It’s not just hands either. Bacteria are everywhere. On everything, under and behind everything, even inside us. And of course, floating through the air – lighter than smoke or specks of dust – swirling, trailing, riding the smallest breeze, all the way up to 30,000 – higher than Everest.

So as soon as our clean hands touch something, they’re contaminated again.

Repeat and repeat

Which means we’ve got to clean the things we touch. And KEEP CLEANING THEM – because the bacteria keep coming back. Wash, wipe, scrub, it’s a never-ending mission.

Even then, it’s not even half the job. Around 80% of any room we live in is air space to move around in – and there’s no wash, wipe, scrubbing answer for that.

We’re at hazard from each other’s bacteria too – because we’re not all the same. Most of us have weaknesses of some kind or other. So our personal biome – the trailing cloud of bacteria unique to each of us – is trapped and mingles in the air of our work space with everybody else’s.

Just by being together we can infect each other.

Unless of course, the whole place is misted up with a Hypersteriliser, oxidising all germs to nothing with hydrogen peroxide.

Not vaporised hydrogen peroxide either – too strong for safety and making everything wet.

Press the button when everybody’s gone for the night, and the mild 6% solution of hydrogen peroxide is IONISED from a microscopic spray into an electrically-charged gas plasma – a super-performing change of state that  releases even more antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone, and ultraviolet – every particle alive with energy to disperse everywhere and grab pathogens as they fly.

Forty minutes and the place is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria. Zero germs. Every surface safe. The air totally bio-neutral.

Safe till next time

Of course it starts all over again next morning.

As we all breeze in for the day, each trailing our bio-cloud with us – hands alive with bacteria from the steering wheel, the door handle, the ticket machine, the lift button and the loo seat. Er yes, but soap and water fixes most of that.

Wash, wash, wash – it’s our latest antibiotic – which in case you were wondering means “inhibits the growth of, or destroys, microorganisms.”

Phew! We made it.

Never mind that those antibio-whatsits don’t work any more. We know how to be safe.

Enjoy your day.

Originally posted 2015-11-13 13:29:00.

How dentists stop germs straight in off the street

Mouth with germs
Don’t worry, you’re safe from germs.
Every new patient gets a sterile room.

Oh, oh – 2.30.

Time to see the dentist.

A quick in-out, before that cavity drives you crazy. Fifteen minutes tops – problem sorted.

Let’s hope it’s a quickie

You breeze in, five minutes before the time. Nervous, can’t handle waiting, other people staring at you. All rugged up ‘cos it’s winter outside – slushy-gloomy.

The nurse smiles. Richard Hammond teeth whitening. Doctor will see you now.

You clump in, not smiling. Thrilling drilling is not your thing.

The Doc smiles too. Sun-tanned, just back from two weeks in Calabria. Sit back in the chair. Tilt, tilt, tilt. His new scenic of Scilla and Castello Ruffo is on the ceiling. Soothing for nervous types like you. He gives you wraparound specs, but they fog up.

This is it, the moment of tooth.

You can’t see anything, but he’s not drilling. Just tinkering around your mouth with a probe.

And then it hits you.

How safe are you?

The face mask, the latex gloves. To protect him or you?

You’re straight in off the street, still in your coat, pavement grime on your calf boots. If he drills, won’t the germs get in there?

That’s an exposed cavity – sure his instruments are all sterilised – but how safe is that room?

Your feet wiggle, like you can feel the mud through the leather.

Ew!

Lots of people come in here. 15-minute appointments back-to-back, just like yours. Nine-to-five, that’s eight hours – less one off for lunch – 28 patients a day. 28 people with mud on their boots, but you never see anyone sweep the floor.

And all that other street dirt too. Grime in the air that marks collars and cuffs. Germs. All swept in by the gale that happens every time the street door opens. All over everyone’s clothes, their skin…

They think it’s all over

“There we are, all done.”

The dentist is smiling as the chair tips upright. He takes off the wraparounds. Calabria on the walls too. Boats and Italian fishermen.

He helps you out of the chair, comes with you to the door, the nurse too. They both smile – Hollywood brilliance.

The nurse has a remote in her hand. They step out with you and close the door. What’s going on?

The nurse holds up the remote. “My turn?”

He nods and grins at you, kinda schoolboy silly.

“A Captain Kirk moment. Set phasers to stun.”

The nurse presses a button. They both leer at the closed door. Hollywood smiles like movie lights.

The Doc hold up his watch and leans against the wall.

“It only takes five minutes. Our new toy. We call it Starship Enterprise.”

You frown, running your tongue round your teeth. There’s a new roughness where the hole was. Fresh amalgam. And you didn’t even hear the drill. Is something wrong?

The Doc looks embarrassed. Did he notice the mud on your boots?

High-tech hygiene

“It’s our UV light generator, in the corner where your feet were.”

You vaguely remember a thing like a photocopier.

The schoolboy look comes back.

“After every patient, we pop out here and press the button. This super-bright xenon light pops up and pulse-pulse-pulse, kills all the germs it can see – anywhere and everywhere, on the chair, on the instruments, up in the air, all over the place.”

Super-schoolboy now. A gadget freak for sure – or a video game player. Full Hollywood grin too. Super-Jaws.

“Viruses, bacteria, bugs, all gone. And a five minute breather, while we stay out here safe.”

Your turn to grin. No worries about the boots. No worries about anything, you can’t remember.

But you’re curious. Starship Enterprise? UV?

The Doc nudges the door.

“C’mon, take a butcher’s.”

You were right, just like a photocopier – Enterprise is just fantasy. The only difference is a circular hatch on the top. Closed. Where the light lives.

Boys’ toys

He pats it, like it’s a new C320.

“It’s called a Hyperpulse. It bombards the room with high intensity UV light which germs can’t survive. Attacks their DNA – bye bye, bacteria. Every new patient gets a sterile room.”

You smile and your tongue finds the rough spot. Too geeky for you. But not tooth hurty any more. You’d better get back.

No probs, they’re already calling the next patient.

Straight in off the street, yeah.

But safe as houses.

Originally posted 2015-11-12 13:58:49.

Quick! Wash your hands before you kill someone!

Dirty hands
When antibiotics don’t work – all that’s between you and killer germs

Alarmist?

Well something’s got to grab our attention. And fast.

Because maybe not today, but some time soon, what’s on our hands may well kill someone. And that person could easily be you.

The antibiotics debacle

Two reasons, both triggered by antibiotics.

One, they don’t work any more. Not all of them, but a heck of a lot – enough to terrify most senior doctors.

Wonder-drugs fifty years ago, today they could be sugar pills. High expectations, but zero performance – pretty well useless. Too much overuse worldwide and the bugs we use them against have become resistant.

Yes, overuse. Particularly by agriculture. Every year more than 65,000 tons of antibiotics are put into feedstuffs – to make beef, pork and poultry animals bulk up for market. And you thought they were just for medicines.

Superbugs

OK, so how about these superbugs they don’t work against any more?

Heard of MRSA? Well add pneumonia, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli to the everyday list – with a whole stack more queueing behind. Any one of which can do you down without urgent and careful treatment.

So what’s that got to do with dirty hands?

Easy. Antibiotics are our Number One defence against infection.

Cut a dirty hand and it’s antibiotics that protect us from tetanus. Without a quick dose of tetanus immunoglobulin (actually a vaccine), expect convulsions and severe muscle spasms strong enough to fracture the spine – a very, very unpleasant way to die.

Bye bye surgery

That goes for any cut too, not just accidents. Like surgical incisions. Without antibiotics, any surgical procedure becomes just about impossible. Infection is inevitable and patients will die. And that goes for everything from hip replacements to triple bypasses.

Without the wonder-drugs, there’s only one other way to minimise infection with any certainty. By making sure everything is so totally clean, there aren’t any bugs on it. Yes, by washing hands.

And not just by doctors, but by every one of us. Whenever we think of it, over and over again.

Because now we can’t take risks any more. Take a chance, eat with dirty hands, have a stupid accident, face any physical challenge.

Bye bye hospital

WE’RE the first line of defence now, not the doctors. Our own personal hygiene, our own protective washing techniques. Which means staying the heck out of trouble of course, so nothing ever happens to us. Couch potatoes.

Because reality is that hospital will increasingly become the end of the line. No more antibiotics, no more last-ditch hope. Forgetting to wash your hands is a one-way ticket – feet first, to eternity.

And make no mistake, we really are in danger. Because the way most of us are so casual about hygiene, we don’t stand a snowball’s against a serious bug. We don’t wash hands properly, or for long enough. Or, let’s be honest, ever at all.

Now the second thing about antibiotics. The double-whammy waiting to clobber us.

More than fifty years we’ve been using them. 600,000 tons every year – symbolically, the same mass as one of the twin towers at the World Trade Centre that collapsed on 9/11. And potentially even more deadly.

Timid new world

You see, it’s not just bacteria that have changed and mutated over the years, becoming stronger and more resistant. It’s ourselves, probably gobbling down a course of antibiotics at least five times a year. Except we’re not getting stronger, we’re going backwards.

And it’s not just our medicines that contain antibiotics, it’s the food we guzzle as well. A steadily rising threshold of antibiotics in pretty well every kind of meat product – and vegetables as well, from recycled natural waste going into the ground.

More than fifty years of it, continuously every day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacking – is it any surprise we have weaknesses and deficiencies that didn’t exist a generation ago?

You see it’s an awkward fact of life that our own bodies NEED bacteria in order to survive. Millions and millions of years ago we went into partnership with them to do the heavy lifting for digesting food, producing protein and even stabilising our immune systems.

We, aliens

Bacteria colonies in our own bodies outnumber our own human cells by more than 10 to 1. We’re actually aliens. Which is why we have over 100 trillion bacteria naturally resident in our gut. Dropping an antibiotic in amongst that lot is about the same as releasing an atom bomb – killing bacteria left, right and centre, that’s how they work.

Which is why we often get side-effects like being ill all over again – vomiting, cramps, diarrhoea, or worse. And in one way or another, we’ve been continuously bombarding our systems with antibiotics all the way since birth.

Not good for our immune systems – especially in the formative years from one to three, when our bodies are learning which bacteria are good and which are bad – and how to fight against them. That’s what all the eating mud and stuff is about. Equipping ourselves with protection.

Except we don’t eat mud any more, do we? We don’t live out in the country, we’re probably in a tenth-floor walk up. There is no mud – and our mothers would find it repulsive anyway. Which means our bacteria either choreograph that bit out, or develop in different directions.

Mutant beings

Changes in our metabolism and we never even know that they exist.

Take allergies for instance. Twenty years ago nobody had ever heard of urticaria, or coeliac disease, or anaphylactic shock. Yes they existed, but not on the everyday radar. Common as muck now – the muck we didn’t have when we were babies.

Fifty years on and our diet has changed too. We eat different foods, with different values – and all the time the antibiotic level is creeping up higher and higher.

Uh huh. And our resistance is going downer and downer. Today our bodies have conditions nobody even considered before.

Think obesity is something to do with diet? Oh yes, it is – but we can’t change it now. Not seriously. How else could a third of us be so suddenly like that? We’ve bred it into ourselves. Our internal bacteria are a whole new breed that live with low exercise, artificial foods and a high level of antibiotics.

Try running it off at the gym all you like – we’re getting to where we’re so genetically altered, that fat is normal. Yeah, we shouldn’t pig out on the kilo box of Quality Street – but there’s min chance we’ll get to Size 12 without them either.

Lower resistance.

But the same daily challenge of living in a world surrounded by billions and billions of bacteria and viruses – many of them friendly, many of them neutral – and many of them downright deadly.

Wash them away whenever you think of it – sterilise the living area around you with hydrogen peroxide mist. Every day, the battle goes on – and we’re not necessarily winning.

OK, now it’s serious. Keep at it with the soap and water, or someone’s going to die.

Don’t let it be you.

Originally posted 2015-11-11 14:02:01.

Should our hospitals work like crime scenes?

Crime scene
The cops can teach us a thing or two about avoiding contamination

Calm down Doc, no-one’s casting nasturtiums.

Truth is, the cops have got something you could maybe use Big Time. Better control of overall hygiene. Stop HAIs dead in their tracks.

Because if you’ve ever watched news coverage of any crime scene investigation, you’ll notice the rozzers are paranoid about one thing – avoiding contamination.

Strict procedure

First thing they do is secure the area – like isolating a patient in quarantine. Nobody in, nobody out – unless properly authorised, signed for and logged. No unwanted outside influences.

Then the SOCO team arrive – Scene of Crime Officers in their bunny suits. Full body covering, face masks, gloves and booties.

Familiar territory?

You bet. Modern crime scenes lean heavily on microbiology – trace evidence, DNA and epithelials. To nail the bad guy, they can’t afford the cops’ own body substances corrupting the evidence.

Uh huh. Exactly like scrubbing and gowning up for surgery. Medics can’t afford to take chances with possible infection. Everything is clinically clean and sterile – anything that touches the patient has to be safe.

Slight difference though, isn’t there?

The cops are concerned their own presence can skew the results.

The biological “life” cloud

They’re better aware of the human biome – that the body is surrounded by billions of bacteria, trailing around like a cloud. That the skin gives off billions more bacteria, along with secretions and the constant sloughing off of dead skin cells.

Because of this sharp awareness, they can secure a conviction from the DNA of a single hair. And it’s already on the cards that just sampling the air of a crime scene may soon yield the identity of suspects entirely from biome traces left behind – long after the bad guy left the building.

Avoid contamination, nail the perp.

Not quite how it works in hospital though, is it?

Because there’s one element the patient on the operating table is not protected from.

Themselves.

The medics are all gowned and sterile, but the patient’s biome is all over the place – floating around the table and throughout the OR.

Blood pressure, check. Pulse, check. Respiration, check. Temperature, check. And what about a pre-op wash? Never mind the screening for MRSA or whatever – one incision and that patient could be self-infected, from normally dormant pathogens suddenly finding an entry into the body.

Something is a little skew about how we prep for hygiene.

Slightly oops

From personal experience of three operations in two hospitals – two hernias and a quad repair – patients themselves are not scrubbed and sterilised the way that doctors and nurses have to be.

Sure, they’re wearing a hospital gown and out cold under general anaesthetic, but they could have breezed in before that, straight off the street – no shower, no bath, not even a hand scrub – maybe even bypassing the hospital’s own sanitising gel stations.

And here it is, direct from the Nursing Times: “Patients should wash or shower using soap and water the evening before surgery.”

The evening before! How many billion billion germ opportunities could that be?

OK, so the op’s a success and the patient goes to the recovery ward. Lots of people with lowered resistance. Lots of incisions and holes for tubes, drips and cannulas.

So in come the relatives, also straight off the street. Ordinary street clothes, trailing outside biome plumes, frequently side-stepping the sanitising gel stations – not even using the one at the foot of the bed.

Yup, you’d better believe it. Only one in three visitors ever uses the things.

People with a dodgy hygiene record too. Rushed and forgetful like the rest of us, wanting to show care and concern – but often the biggest infection risk of all.

Why?

Sloppy hygiene

Not the way the cops would do it.

Prevent contamination, right?

Which, in The Force, would mean hand gel is obligatory – orders are orders. And containing biomes is paramount – everybody fully enclosed in bunny suits. Yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir.

Even then, there’s still a major risk of HAIs.

Straight in off the street – it’s cold out there, central heating in here – patients in T-shorts with the bedcovers flung back.

You got it – nose sniffles. Inevitable.

Not cold or flu or anything – but for the first ten minutes, running like a tap. Both nostrils, high up – from the same place where staphylococcus bacteria normally reside passively, or their methicillin-resistant cousins, MRSA. Harmless enough unless something happens.

Harmless as in pat on the cheek or a handshake. Or simply just breathing out, more microbes to join the visiting biome. Potentially lethal if the germs run amok. 80 people die of MRSA every year.

Prevention before cure

At a crime scene, the cops put up a tent – to keep out prying eyes and stop the weather destroying the evidence. The sun to dry things out. The rain to wash them away. Footprints, bloodstains, tyre tracks.

In hospital there’s a Hypersteriliser – as long as staff aren’t too rushed and busy to use it. Every ward made sterile before occupancy by misting up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide. All viruses and bacteria oxidised to nothing – zero germ threshold. Zero contamination.

Maybe hospitals are already more like crime scenes than we think.

In which case, nice one Doc.

See? Nobody having a go, everybody all on the same side. Just like the cops.

Except those chancers who will not gel their hands.

Well, only one way to deal with them.

“Hey you. You’re nicked!”

Originally posted 2015-11-10 16:17:23.

Red-handed! Our biggest cause of food poisoning

Red-handed
The evidence is there – and it’s got our finger-prints all over it

It’s right there at our fingertips – and we never even know it.

None of the usual suspects either – not norovirus or c.difficile or salmonella or e.coli.

Not even campylobacter – though messing around with raw chicken can make you pretty queasy.

Sticky fingers us

Nope, it’s all of these and more. And the REAL villain of the piece is right under our noses – our own greasy, cotton-picking mitts.

Our own..?

Greasy? Cotton-picking?

A bit harsh isn’t? A bit rude?

Ah, but reality is harsh. The truth hurts, especially in denial.

Sure we washed our hands at some stage during the morning. And then?

Caught red-handed!

What about all the things we’ve touched, grabbed hold of, carried, pushed, pulled, fingered all over or thrown away? Were they clean too? Were they safe to handle without scrubbing up afterwards?

And, ew! How about when we went to the loo? Super gross, or what?

Celebrity dirty

Apparently not. No less a superstar than Hunger Games heroine Jennifer Lawrence publicly admits she doesn’t wash her hands after spending a penny. She even pees in the basin.

And she’s not alone.

So, yes. Greasy, cotton-picking, GERM-LADEN mitts.

Disgusting?

Only sort of.

Because we’re not really to blame. Just forgetful.

See, if our hands were VISIBLY DIRTY, pretty well all of us would wash them off right away. We know we don’t want that yuck going on our food – collywobbles for sure.

Concealed evidence

But they’re not visibly dirty, are they? They LOOK clean.

And that’s the problem – you can’t see germs. They’re too darned small. Two or three thousand on the POINT of a pin. Nothing to see here, move on, move on.

Not the same as if they itched like crazy (which some of them do, of course). Or caused a rash (they do that too). Or made us feel cold, or like our hands were in hot water.

But there’s no reminder, nothing.

And so we go merrily on, blissfully unaware – from one potential health hazard to the next.

Like when was that hanging strap on the Jubilee Line last wiped down with bleach? Or the escalator handrail? Or the grab-rail on the No 19? Does anyone ever wipe the push-rail of street door to the office building? Or even THINK about wiping the Lift Call button?

Causing sickness

Plus then of course, there’s the hiccup that we’re late – signal failure at Oxford Circus. But when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go – so the pee-break is a rush before we get to the office. And then, wouldn’t you know, it’s our turn to make coffee for everyone.

Rush, rush, rush – no time to wash our hands. But what the heck, they look OK, don’t they?

So Priscilla on the Help Desk never knows how she caught that stomach bug straight of nowhere. Gastroenteritis – nasty. Vomiting, cramps, diarrhoea – three days off, like death warmed up. And there’s us, praying we’ll never get it.

OK, just wash our hands.

Because there’s germs all around us, all the time.

And even when we’ve washed your hands, THEY’RE STILL THERE.

Our hands might be clean but everything else isn’t. Like our desks probably have 10 million bacteria on them each, right now.

It gets worse.

Like we probably think that washing up when we get home gets rid of the germs on our plates and knives and forks – just before we come down with – not gastroenteritis this time but salmonella. Vomiting, cramps, diarrhoea – same difference.

And no wonder. All that glurk, all in the one place – water, suds, grease, sauce, food bits, crumbs, dust – a totally iffy bacterial soup. Possibly the worst thing we could ever do to stay healthy. And we’re going to put our hands in that?

So, no reminder.

Avoiding sickness

As soon as we wash our hands, they get dirty again. Dirty in germ terms – cramps, diarrhoea, hospital, life support. Which means we have to remember, they’re DIRTY ALL THE TIME.

Kinda changes the rules in keeping ourselves healthy, doesn’t it? Not just avoiding food poisoning, but more serious stuff too. Bird flu, asthma, TB – or some hooligan virus we picked up on holiday chasing the sun. One of those serious, life-threatening ones.

DIRTY ALL THE TIME? Wash Hands Logo

To really play safe, we’ve got to wash our hands all the time too. Kinda impractical that, so make that wash hands before anything critical – and certainly after anything yucky. Like, before food, after loo.

And everywhere in between if we remember. Because among all the other things, we’re touching our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times a day too. Wiping our invisibly dirty hands on the germ-entry points of mouth, nose, eyes and ears.

So it’s not just food poisoning we’re worried about – it’s finger poisoning.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

And you imagined the worst that could happen today was a broken nail.

Originally posted 2015-11-09 15:47:51.

Five signs you might already be an angel

Bio-aura
Just like an angel. We’re more like heavenly bodies than we might ever think

We are more remarkable than we know.

We’re also not like anything we think we know.

Our brain tells us one thing, but reality is another – our day-to-day consciousness just precludes us from seeing it.

Or believing it.

Which is why – with apologies to ecclesiastical sensitivities, but looking at the shared evidence from various spiritual sources – that we dare to suggest we might already be angels.

We have haloes, an aura all round us

Wherever we go, a living cloud surrounds us. We can’t see it, but we know it’s there. An invisible veil of microorganisms too small to see – the billions and billions of bacteria that surround us every moment of our lives.

We never think of them, never feel that they are there. Except for the bad ones maybe, the ones that can do us harm. Because if we cut ourselves or get dirty, we know that germs get in and we become infected.

Of course there’s good bacteria too, but we only know about those if we’re doctors or biologists – people aware that the good stuff protects us by crowding the bad stuff out.

Actually, some of us can see this aura. In his book Gifts of Unknown Things, South African botanist, zoologist, biologist, anthropologist and ethologist Lyall Watson describes a young girl in Indonesia who could sense colour surrounding her parents and other adults – varying in hue as their moods and thoughts changed.

There’s even a possible explanation for this. Researchers at Harvard University working with samples of escherichia coli found that individual cells of the bacterium carry an electrical charge – negative on the outside and positive on the inside. Exposed to a bacterial protein called green-absorbing proteorhodopsin, the bacteria became excited and gave off light – blinking on and off like a Christmas tree.

Was that young girl so sensitive to her environment that her metabolism could sense tiny voltage changes in the bacterial mantle around her parents’ skins? The aura is medically proven to be there, we just need some kind of 3D bacterial glasses to be able to see it.

We leave traces of ourselves wherever we go

It’s well acknowledged that visitations by angels have one lasting quality – the lingering smell of roses. Whatever the experience, the heady scent seems to provide proof that holy creatures at some stage were present.

Our trailing bio-cloud of bacteria provides similar evidence of our presence, even when we are gone. It is in fact a biological signature unique to every one of us – no two human beings attract quite the same combination of bacteria.

We can’t see it of course, but with their super sensitive noses dogs seem to be able to smell it. If they can locate individual superbugs in hospitals like clostridium difficile, why not single out specific humans from their one-of-a-kind bio-cloud IDs? Is this how a dog’s sense of smell has such unerring accuracy?

We can work miracles

We actually do this every day, though we don’t even know it. That’s because we’re not really us. Reality is that we are colonised by bacteria INSIDE our bodies as well as out – and that they outnumber our body cells by more than 10 to 1.

Our gut for instance is home to 100 trillion bacteria – to enable digestion, produce proteins to power us – and even to regulate the immune system.

It’s more than a remarkable partnership, it’s an amazing miracle that allows out human cells to park off and lord it like kings while a slave force of bacteria does the heavy lifting. After all, watching that box set is the thing, hey. Who wants the PT of processing all those Pringles and coffee while you’re doing it.

We give priceless gifts

If our bodies are living miracles, the powers that they give us are even more amazing. Our immune systems for instance are a finely balanced synergy between bacteria and our own body cells that for seventy years and more keep us pretty well invincible – just like a guardian angel. And believe it or not, our immunity is transferable.

Oh sure, we know that harmful pathogens and infections are easily transferred – by direct contact or unfortunately breathing them in. But the good news is now researchers in California have found that mothers train their babies’ developing immune systems by sending cells through the placenta to teach how it’s done.

Before being born, or any of the coming experience of playing with dirt and teething on everything, babies know how to handle outside threats and how to distinguish biological friend from foe.

We are in heavenly ignorance of all this

If we stopped to think about things, we’d be totally paranoid. Our bodies are 98% water. We share 95% of our DNA with bananas. And now it turns out that 90% of us isn’t us at all but bacteria.

The right bacteria of course. Because the wrong bacteria is totally deadly.

Trouble is, we’re no two of us the same. Which is why some of us get ill in some circumstances and some in others. There is no common denominator. Not very helpful when most of the time we choose to be together in enclosed spaces, in close contact sharing the same air.

Fortunately we don’t need to worry about this either because now it’s possible to sterilise our living spaces after we’ve been there, reducing the germ threshold to zero so we can’t infect each other with our residual bio-clouds.

It’s done with a Hypersteriliser, which mists up the place with hydrogen peroxide to destroy all viruses and bacteria – on surfaces, hidden in cracks and crevices, or lingering in the air.

Is this heaven on earth?

Mmm, better leave that to the theological experts.

Originally posted 2015-11-04 18:05:48.

Suddenly smitten by co-worker haloes?

Business angel
Temperatures rise, pulses quicken – somebody call a doctor

No, it’s not love in the air – however hard you might wish for it.

Reality is even weirder – an invisible halo round each of us.

Researchers have found that it’s billions and billions and billions of tiny microbes, way too small to see. Our own personal aura of bacteria that surrounds each of us day and night.

Not very heavenly

Ew, bacteria!

Floating all round us?

Gross!

Er, actually they’re supposed to be there. Like bacteria are everywhere. On every surface, round every living thing, even inside us.

Remember your dentist? Lecturing you about cleaning your teeth?

Totally outnumbered

Well according to Sigmund Socransky, associate clinical professor of periodontology (study of teeth structures and diseases) at Harvard University: “In one mouth, the number of bacteria can easily exceed the number of people who live on Earth (more than 6 billion).”

OK, and like everywhere, there’s good guys and bad guys. Cleaning your teeth takes away the food traces the bad guys feed on. Bye bye, bad guys – let the good guys stay to protect your teeth.

There’s even more bacteria in your gut – over 100 trillion. Seems we can’t live without them. They outnumber us more than 10 to 1. Helping us digest stuff, producing proteins to power our systems, leaving us to take a back seat. All perfectly natural.

Feel easier now?

And since we’re colonised so heavily within and without, having a personal halo following us around everywhere doesn’t seem so freakish after all – millions of bacteria, particles of skin cells and little pieces of fungi that break out of our hair – our own unique signature.

Our unique biological ID

This halo of bacteria literally makes itself at home wherever we are. Within minutes, any space we’re in is occupied by our aura. When we leave, traces of it are still there. And so are everybody else’s.

Good guys and bad guys, right?

Our good guys get on with other people’s haloes fine. They give the bad guys a tough time of it too, crowding them out so there’s no place to go – even eating them if they’re bolshy enough.

Trouble is though, we’re not all as perfect as we’d like to be.

A surprising number of us have underlying conditions that weaken us in some way – a previous injury or illness, asthma, TB, any number of digestive disorders. Our good guys have their hands full. Which means if the bad guys get to us, we’re in trouble.

Not the same as coughs and sneezes through the air conditioning is it? Though that happens too.

Without us being aware of it, we could be smitten by a co-workers halo. Picking up a disease or infection just because it was there among the bacteria of somebody else’s halo – staphylococcus or streptococcus possibly, both common in the nose or mouth.

Send in the troops

What defence do we have?

Not a lot in the average workplace. Vacuumed out at the end of the day, waste bins emptied, a quick wipedown with a cleaning cloth – mostly to clear off dust.

When the lights go out, the bacteria stay – waiting to catch us with another dose tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Good bad guy bacteria can survive for weeks if necessary. But they don’t have to if one of us has low resistance. Their new home.

Unless of course, we take the bad guys out.

That means all bacteria of course, good guys too – there’s no way to separate them. Making the whole place sterile so there’s nothing there. Exactly like in hospital. No bacteria, no viruses, no fungi. Completely germ-free and safe.

All it takes is to mist the place up with hydrogen peroxide – an antimicrobial that destroys germs by oxidising them, ripping apart their cell structure with oxygen atoms.

First off, we have to get out of there. Don’t want any harm to our personal bacteria – we NEED them to keep living.

Then a Hypersteriliser generates the mist, ionising it so it spreads everywhere, giving it a charge that snatches at microorganisms on the fly, grabbing hold like a magnet. (Appropriately, they call this machine a Halo in the US).

The stuff penetrates everywhere too, driven by the same charge – round the back of the computers, behind the filing cabinets, under the photocopier.

Safe at last

On every surface as well. Desks, cupboards, walls, ceilings – keyboards, phones, desk organisers – everywhere. Leaving a thin antimicrobial barrier on everything that lasts up to a week – no germs from buttered scone fingers on the keyboard that didn’t get wiped. Forty minutes, job done.

What’s that? You’re still smitten?

Not by bugs, you’re not.

But you know what they say about romance in the office. Better be careful, people will talk.

Originally posted 2015-11-03 15:43:56.

100 mph, eyes shut – crashed & burned, eating

Fireball
Eating with dirty hands is just as lethal

Yeah, well it looked safe enough.

Straight hamburger and chips, no big deal.

Except 2 hours later, cramps like dying. Upchucks more violent than a volcano. And you don’t want to know about the runs.

Uh huh.

Don’t blame the restaurant

But forget about suing anyone.

79 people ahead of this one ordered burger and chips. 38 people after.

None of them had anything wrong. Somebody having a laugh?

How come one case of “food poisoning” when everyone else was clean?

Clean – hold that thought.

As in clean hands.

Except it didn’t happen, did it?

The price of forgetfulness

Like doing the ton-up with eyes shut – on bald tyres, with no brakes or seatbelt.

Yeah, possible to get away with it once. Maybe even twice.

But keep chowing that burger without soap and water first – crashed and burned is inevitable.

Like hitting a brick wall. Gruesome at home, solo. Not nice either, at A&E. Better pray the stomach pump works. That dehydration doesn’t crash the body completely.

Dead from a hamburger?

Not unless it lodged in the throat – a Heimlich manoeuvre gone screwy. Not unless it was murder – strychnine or arsenic laced on top.

Hot off the grill

Because a burger gets cooked from frozen – dropped on the grill where it sizzles and does its thing at 155°F – that’s 68°C – too hot for germs like e.coli or salmonella. No food poisoning there.

Ah, but the hands that unwrap it and scoff it. On average, walking down the street, 10 million microbes on each hand. 20 million on both.

Yeah sure, plenty of harmless stuff, nothing to worry about.

Plenty of bad stuff as well. Like faecal matter from being careless in the loo. And all the usual suspects – e.coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, flu and norovirus. Too small to see, but there anyway – just waiting for an opportunity.

Any one of those – crash and burn big time. Only about 100 deaths each per bug. Annoying reality though – dead unfortunately means dead. No chance to go round and wash hands again. Too late to say sorry.

Better to live

Reality means gone to the big fast food joint in the sky.

Time to slow down. Take it easy, wash hands first.

A lot less of a health hazard.

More chance of living to a ripe old age.

Originally posted 2015-11-02 17:13:15.

If you could see germs, you’d be scared too

Doctor with microscope
More deadly than any terrorist threat – and they’re all around us

Doctors are scared.

They don’t show it because they’re too professional.

But they know and they’re scared. That deep-down gut-twisting fear that things are wrong.

It’s about antibiotics.

Antibiotics and germs.

Once upon a time antibiotics were thought to fix just about anything. Not viruses of course, they’re physically even more difficult. But certainly bacteria. Any risk of infection, bung in antibiotics – the miracle drugs that have made modern medicine the wonder that it is.

Alarm bells ringing

Trouble is, antibiotics are beginning not to work any more. The germs are winning.

Which means any kind of routine surgery – from gallstone removal to a simple bypass – is no longer as safe as it was. Infection is less easy to control. Complications are more likely to set in. Pretty well the only thing between success and disaster is the level of hygiene.

Exactly why doctors are hearing alarm bells.

Because there’s one massive difference between a surgical incision protected by antibiotics – and one not protected at all.

At all? Surely not.

Better believe it. Look at the lengths medics go to in isolating dread diseases. Hazmat clothing for all personnel. Isolation tent with built-in sleeves and gloves for patient care without touching. Like Ebola tents – we’ve all seen the pictures in the media. Just imagine if EVERY case was like this.

Because if antibiotics don’t work, they already are.

Staph infections, TB, c.difficile, gonorrhoea, e.coli – they’re all immune and have-a-go – often present but inactive in our own bodies. Waiting for just one opening, one simple little cut…

External germs are an even bigger headache. They’re everywhere, on every surface, swirling and teeming in the air.

See for yourself

Want a demonstration? Grab a handful of glitter and throw it in the air. Better still, throw it in front of a fan, because all microbes can float on the slightest breeze.

The stuff goes everywhere, right? On your clothes, in your hair, all over your face. And see how difficult it is to wash off. See how it keeps twisting and fluttering in the air – be a couple of hours before that’s finished settling.

But at least you can SEE glitter. Germs are smaller and you can’t see them at all. But they’re there alright – like there’s already 6 billion right inside your own mouth.

OK, maybe glitter is a bit radical – but at least it shows how difficult the problem is.

A better example is Glo Germ, a harmless liquid or powder of fake germs – invisible and no more than 5 microns across, exactly like real. Like germs, it spreads all over the place and can’t be seen.

Not in the air unfortunately, but certainly on surfaces like food preparation areas – a tell-tale to show when areas HAVE NOT been cleaned effectively.

Shine an ultraviolet light on the treated area and uncleaned parts immediately show up – like TV’s fancy CSI-goo for detecting blood stains.

Hey Fred, this thing’s filthy – watch your six, or you’re gonna get it!

Yeah, OK. So our antibiotics have packed up and there’s billions of germs around that we can’t see. Should we give up and cry?

Start with soap and water

Not unless you want to be dead – which is what germs do, given half a chance – make you dead. The bad ones that is – inside every one of us, there’s more than 100 trillion good bacteria of our own.

Which means the best thing is show bad germs where to get off. With soap and water for example – washing our hands at least before and after every meal – and very definitely going to the loo.

Of course doctors and nurses do this already, scrubbing up before every procedure. They know the odds – and nobody wants to lose a patient on THEIR watch.

They’re still scared.

Washing hands, sterilising instruments, swabbing everything down – none of it gets rid of microorganisms in the air. And gut-feel tells the Docs those germs are up there. ALL germs are airborne, it’s a physical impossibility that they’re not. At 5 microns across or less, that’s 100th the size of coffee fumes!

Only one thing for it. Some kind of spray to take out the airborne jobs. If they can fumigate a whole house for insects, then surely they can do the same thing for superbugs.

Hello, hydrogen peroxide

Very definitely yes. And nowhere near as toxic.

The spray is hydrogen peroxide, exactly the same as the body produces for its own germ-fighting – in a mild 6% solution – the same as you might use as for minor cuts and abrasions, or as a mouth wash.

Underpowered? Not a bit of it. Hydrogen peroxide kills germs by oxidising them – shoving oxygen atoms at them that tear apart their cell structure. There’s no germs coming back from that.

Plus, because it’s ionised as it’s sprayed, the hydrogen peroxide is cranked up to warp speed as it leaves its Hypersteriliser dispenser – a slick, handy unit about the size of a small wheelie-bin.

Remember your states of matter? Solid, liquid, gas, right?

Well ionising a gas, which is what vaporised hydrogen peroxide is, changes its state again. From a gas to a plasma – a kind of supergas in which all the molecules are charged.

And which releases a whole slew of other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet.

Germs to oblivion

Yeah, World War Three in microcosm. But it still takes time to happen. The hydrogen peroxide has to disperse and fill the room space – a rapid action because the molecules all carry the same charge.

They are actively and desperately trying to get away from each other. Which forces the plasma through the air, equally in all directions – fetching hard up against all surfaces, including walls and ceilings – and pushing deep into every crack and crevice, exactly the places wipe-down disinfecting cannot reach.

Filling the air and making sure the stuff works takes around 40 minutes for the average room. After that, the place is sterile. No germs, no bacteria – just oxygen and water which evaporates before it touches anything.

OK, doctors are still scared. There’s still no replacement to do what antibiotics do.

But at least they’re not terrified.

Originally posted 2015-10-29 18:41:36.

Why we never recognise our biggest ever threat

Asteroid crashing
Oh,oh. The end of the world is already here – inside our own bodies

Yeah, yeah – what we don’t know won’t hurt us.

Yet.

Kinda like the ostrich with it’s head stuck in the sand.

If we can’t see it, it isn’t there.

Like NASA’s quarter-mile wide “Great Pumpkin” Halloween asteroid set to graze past Earth at 22 miles per second in a near miss of barely 300,000 miles on October 31st.

Invisible, unthinkable

Don’t expect to see it without a radio telescope. Or hear a bang. Or anything.

It’s so far out of sight – and out of mind – it might as well not exist.

We recognise it as a threat though.

Someday, some monstrous piece of space junk will come hurtling through the atmosphere – and that will be us, gone the way of the dinosaurs. Like the WTF anomaly that’s supposed to wipe us out on this year’s third Friday 13th, next month in November.

Unless we can stop it. Which believe or not, our li’l old UK government is planning to do. Guess that Bruce Willis Armageddon movie woke up some back-benchers.

The end of the world is nigh

But it’s not an asteroid that’s going to nix us. Something much more deadly is already here and active. Equally out of sight, and equally out of mind. And from the way we’re going, we’re not doing a damn thing to protect ourselves.

Funny that. In our security-obsessed ‘Elf & Safety world – seems we do nothing without some kind of protection.

Chefs wear oven gloves. Cyclists wear crash helmets. Kids wear goggles for conker fights. Just about everything we do has protective clothing or safety devices to stop us coming to harm.

Except from ourselves.

We safeguard ourselves from cold with central heating. Wear gas masks to protect us from carbon monoxide. But we are our own worst enemy and don’t even know it. Out of sight, in plain view, right there in the mirror.

OK, so we stare – some people are really self-obsessed with it. But nobody sees, ever.

They think they’re looking at the image of a human being.

Yeah, well. That’s only 10% true.

We’re all of us, aliens

The rest is 90% bacteria – trillions and trillions of individually invisible microbes that outnumber our human body cells by more than 10 to 1. Which makes that reflection in the mirror as alien as a slithering 20-tentacled extraterrestrial. Face it, we just don’t know ourselves.

What, bacteria? Shock, horror! We’re already doomed.

Uh huh. Unlax, Doc – as Bugs Bunny would say.

We actually need those bacteria – even live in partnership with them. About the biggest outsourcing arrangement of all time – on the go for millions of years. They help us digest food, produce proteins, keep our system in balance and even regulate our body defences for us.

Huh? Defences?

Sure. Most of the time they see off enemy bugs by crowding them out. Otherwise they fight or eat them.

Because there’s deadly pathogens in our bodies all the time – harmful bacteria, dangerous viruses, fearsome fungi. As long as they’re passive and keep their heads down, nothing happens. But let our bodies get out of balance and they let rip. Infection, disease, or just plain feeling sick – all ready to go.

Yeah well, there’s not much we can do about the pathogens inside us, apart from keeping healthy, so long as they stay schtum.

Trouble is, it’s not just our bodies that are colonised with bacteria – it’s everywhere. Every object every surface, every living thing – inside and out – even the air itself is teeming. Billions and billions of microbes all looking for a place to live.

Colonised – full house

Inside our bodies if they could – but that’s already occupied.

So the next best thing is to invade where possible. Through a hole in our defences from mishap or injury. Or more often, breathed in from the air – or on something we eat.

Breathed in, yeah – we know about colds and flu and stuff. And the heavy-hitters, anthrax, chickenpox, measles and TB.

Most of the time OK – air spreads things out, disperses them more widely so they’re not all together – and one or two single germs can’t crack it by themselves – there have to be 10 or 20, depending on how potent they are. And how concentrated – which is why being in a smallpox ward without a facemask is not a good idea.

Ah, but eating stuff. What protection do we have?

For the average Tom, Dick and Harriet – absolutely zero. Because it’s a shocking fact of life that pretty well all of us – 95% of us – don’t ever wash our hands properly.

And our hands, like everything else are covered in germs. Unless we wash them off, those germs go down the hatch, straight into our digestive system. Too many bacteria of the wrong kind in the wrong place – certain disaster.

Which is when we usually run to the Doc for antibiotics – and why this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria!

The miracle that became a disaster

Whoops – antibiotics. A whole disaster story, right there.

Once upon a time, they were the fairy tale miracle drugs – the fix-all for everything. Farmers thought so too – especially in putting weight on animals for market. Beef, pork, poultry – you name it, antibiotics brought the profits rolling in.

Fifty years later, the world is drunk on antibiotics – obsessed and paying the price. 65,000 tons of them are used on farms every year. Totally overused and abused so that bugs are resistant to them – so that routine surgery is almost not possible any more. Even the smallest cut risks major infection.

Even worse, antibiotics have inundated the food-chain. There’s antibiotic traces in everything we eat – even in plants, from the recycling of animal waste.

Net result? We’re not as tough as we were fifty years ago. Not as resilient to bugs – with lower resistance, more susceptible diseases and infections. Our systems haven’t been exposed since infancy, our immune systems no longer learn or remember.

Paying the price

Remember norovirus? Never heard of it before 1968 – now it’s with us every year, the winter vomiting bug. Last week Barrow, this week Scarborough – with guest appearances on the cards up and down the country all through the season.

Forget to wash your hands – and you too can be one of the thousands to come down with it this year. Or e.coli, or salmonella, or campylobacter, or c.difficile – take your pick from the regular stomach upsets.

ALL OF THEM AVOIDABLE with the simplest of basic hygiene.

So here we are in the Twenty-First Century, a human catastrophe staring us in the face – and doing nothing about it.

We don’t wash our hands. We’re not even aware that each of us trails our own cloud of bacteria around with us like an aura. That in places where we gather together, we’re all exposed and vulnerable to each other. At work, at school, in restaurants – and of course, hospitals.

OK if we’re all of us in balance – but nearly every one of us has some underlying condition or weakness in our systems – the weak link to let bugs in and attack us.

Alright, so most of us are untouched – not immune, but able to handle things.

But some of us are vulnerable – and any infection, even from a papercut, can be fatal. Ever heard of sepsis? It’s the worst blood poisoning in the world, immune system in total meltdown – a common and potentially life-threatening infection.

Rescue in sight

But there is a defence. An effective fail-safe, even though our own hygiene standards are so lax. Because it’s not just our hands we forget to wash – when was the last time you wiped down your desk? Or disinfected the washing-up bowl and dishrack?

It’s called a Hypersteriliser and it sprays ultra-fine hydrogen peroxide everywhere in a room, destroying all germs in the air and on surfaces – oxidising them to nothing so the whole place is sterile.

So at last, you’re safe. Even if your system is down, nothing can get you.

Relax, you’ll live.

Originally posted 2015-10-27 18:03:20.