Some nasty bug – a killer variant of cholera – spread by contaminated food.
Not from your five-star beach hotel of course.
But from your fingers.
Hidden dangers – unaware
Because of the crack-of-dawn start to your sight-seeing tour. A mad dash to the loo before you held the coach up. The market, the temple, the boat-trip, the beach barbie. An amazing day – but without one chance to wash your hands. Or even think about it.
A sizzling plate of food and you’re about to dive in – until you check the grubby fingerprints on your water glass.
Ew, that was you! A whole day’s yuck on your hands – which you don’t even see because germs are too small.
But you excuse yourself anyway and head for the bathroom – all glitter and glass and wafting incense. And luckily for you, a good sensible soap and running hot water.
Grubby fingerprints gone. Gunge from the handrails, manky stuff in the street, don’t-ask from the funny place – and yes, you’re not even aware of it, but faecal residue as well – poo from the loo.
Back home of course, you might get away with it. At worst a touch of norovirus and gone. Not nice while it happens, but you’ll survive. A reminder to ALWAYS wash your hands.
Not quite the same on holiday, especially in hot countries. Germs breed easier, transfer easier – and are very often more deadly. Not worth the risk. And totally avoidable if you wash your hands.
Of course that’s our problem isn’t it?
Our hands don’t LOOK dirty, so we think they’re clean. We’re just not dirt-aware enough to keep remembering. But who wants norovirus – or worse, to come home from their holiday in a box?
Keeping them clean is a schlep too, because germs are everywhere – billions and billions of viruses and bacteria – on every surface, in the air, on our own skin except where we’ve washed our hands. Everything might look harmless, but in reality is a potential nightmare, especially at the office.
OK, we can’t do much about germs surrounding us outside in the open, but we can do something about them in our living space. And the way we are with out modern lifestyles, we spend 90% of our time indoors anyway.
Uh huh. Not exactly the healthiest. WE might be harmless to ourselves, but indoors is a space we share with lots of others – school, work, eating out, entertainment.
Personal germ clouds
And every single one of us carries around our own swirling cloud of hidden bacteria – so uniquely distinct to each of us that cops in the near future will be able to ID we were there – just by reading our lingering germ-sign.
Which adds up to germs on everything around us – and clouds of germs towed around by others surrounding us. So easy to pick up – by breathing or touching something – and then absently touching our mouth or eyes.
What could it be? Norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter, or escherichia coli? Enough to hospitalise us if they’re bad, or finish us off if we’re unlucky. Or sometimes even worse. How about that cholera variant you had that close call with – from other colleagues back from holiday?
But like soap and water takes germs off your hands, you can take away the germs surrounding you too. Kinda important if you have an underlying medical condition that maybe even you don’t know about. Or one of your colleagues does – and a simple infection triggers a whole life-threatening experience.
Safe and sterile
Which is why all kinds of places are using ionised hydrogen peroxide – misting up their rooms to take down all viruses and bacteria. Safe and sterile every morning, in addition to clean floors and empty waste bins. No smells, no germs, no health problems.
Lucky escapes every day. And you never have to worry about them.
No, no, not death that’s anything to do with your doctor.
If you’re on antibiotics right now, they’ll probably save your life. And your doctor is a professional, she knows what she’s doing.
Short term if you’re ill, antibiotics are a life saver. They also present us with the same sentence, though – impossible though it seems. Death by antibiotics is an uncomfortable reality.
Except the choice is largely ours – quick or slow, it’s up to us.
First the quick way. It could be days, it could be months – but if we’re careless or unlucky, death is only too possible.
Like, if you’re taking antibiotics and you don’t finish the course. Or worse, if you dose yourself with some left over from last time. That’s you, not your doctor – and it’s you who will pay the price.
Bam, bam hammer
Think of antibiotics like a great big hammer that bashes your infection – bam, bam, bam! – repeated heavy blows to clobber your illness out of existence.
So what happens if the hammer doesn’t hit enough times, or only gives one feeble blow? Which is what happens when you don’t take all the pills.
The illness isn’t beaten, is it? Not totally defeated, so it lives on. Picks itself up and restores itself to its former strength – like something out of Terminator– bacteria are very good at this.
With one very vital difference.
They now know the hammer is coming, and are ready for it – have sussed how to dodge it, or just tough it out. So the hammer does nothing. It is ineffective. The illness has become resistant and is now unstoppable.
So your Doc has to find another kind of hammer, or a sword, or a whatever – a new way to attack your illness to make sure it’s totally annihilated. Another antibiotic that is still effective, not resisted against by infecting bacteria.
Which is exactly how antimicrobial resistance (AMR) develops – a big problem for modern medicine right now. Pathogenic bacteria is not hit hard enough or long enough, so they survive revitalised to live another day.
With ongoing immunity to overcome being hit again. Unstoppable. And untreatable.
Bacteria win – again
So through your own actions, it could be the end of you. Especially if complications set in and your own body doesn’t have the strength to fight them off. Sorry, unless you’re lucky, death is going to happen.
Then there’s the slow way.
Not something that any of us might feel right now, but possibly even MORE inevitable.
Because it’s already on the go.
Down in our insides, our own gut bacteria – the ones that keep us alive and process our digestion among thousands of other things – have already been clobbered by antibiotics and are reacting out of control.
How can we tell?
Check your waistline. How are you doing with the battle of the bulge?
If you’re like most of us adults, you’ve already noticed unwanted pounds piling on without you consciously knowing anything about it.
Not nice, overnight we’re fat – and getting fatter.
Not our fault. But not much we can do about it either.
Because that’s from residual antibiotics contained in the food we eat. From the 240,000 tons of the stuff that is fed to animal livestock around the world every year – vital veterinary support for the giant, super-intensive factory farms that supply us with meat, veg, greens, everything.
Unfortunately all too true – and this is where it gets messy. Because modern farms are not the nice cuddly places we see in picture books. And the animals are not as happy either.
Stressed, crowded and in shockingly unhygienic conditions , without antibiotics, those animals would die. Instead, they grow and thrive with amazing accelerated development – fattened up by antibiotics to sometimes twice the size – and in half the time – the farmer’s double jackpot.
Fast food – from the farmer’s angle. Money in the bank, quick, quick, quick.
Except by eating that same food, with every meal WE’RE ingesting those same antibiotics too. With the same effect on our gut bacteria that they had on the animals. They promote growth, big time.
Our kids grow up faster – almost adults before they even hit their teens. And we grow fatter. And fatter. All too soon swapping Size 16 for the misery of Size 18.
Yeah, welcome to obesity – our latest world-wide epidemic, courtesy of antibiotics.
With one hell of a price to pay.
Being overweight is not healthy, our bodies can’t cope. So we start on the slippery slope of chronic illnesses – diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many others. Slow, debilitating and degrading afflictions that take decades to develop – long, miserable illnesses that all lead to death.
Can we ever escape?
Only by being as healthy as we know how.
If we keep ourselves clean and free of germs, washing hands whenever we think of it, infections can never get to us, we don’t need antibiotics in the first place.
Same thing if we eat healthy – switching to organic, stepping away from mass-produced foods to home-grown wholesomeness and nary an antibiotic anywhere near them, ever. Not easy, but it can be done – though you’re unlikely to be visiting your supermarket again.
Which means you don’t have to choose at all now. You should live long and healthy.
Sure death happens to all of us, but it’s reassuring to know. Live right and it’s only going to happen when it’s supposed too.
Because we’re at the point where antibiotics are beginning not to work any more – and modern medicine is going critical. Straighten up and fly right, or dire things will happen.
Out with the big guns
We’d better believe it. According to our top-level heavyweights, it’s time to get tough. With big-stick tactics for getting it wrong.
Like naughty GPs, prescribing antibiotics without verifying there’s a need. Or naughty farmers, dosing livestock with antibiotics, just to fatten them up.
Haven’t they heard of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)? Don’t they realise that they’re helping dangerous bacteria develop immunity to the drugs we treat them with? That superbugs will soon be untouchable and antibiotics will be useless?
Yeah, some Plan B. Not really a plan at all.
Because it’s a fact of life that BACTERIA ALWAYS SURVIVE – and have done successfully for billions and billions of years. Which is why they’re possibly the most successful life-forms on the planet – able to withstand super-hot and super-cold, super-acid, super-dry, super-salty and super-pressure.
And we dare to think an itty-bitty antibiotic designed by humans is going to stop them.
Maybe hold them back for a few years, lulling us into a sense of false security.
Like hey, remember penicillin?
The original miracle wonder-drug. It saved lives for 12 years before the superbugs got wise to it. Staphylococcus in 1940 – cousin and relative of today’s superbug, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which itself took just 2 years to get in on the act.
But like we said, BACTERIA ALWAYS SURVIVE. They might take a few generations to do it – twenty minutes at a time – so for penicillin, that’s 315,360 generations. Zap – you can’t beat the numbers.
Because, surprise, surprise – among other skills, bacteria are actually able to “teach” each other immunity, passing on their resistance skills to even unrelated types
Yeah? And we think we’re so smart. Because while they’re doing it, the rest of our wonder-drugs store cupboard is rapidly emptying. We don’t wise up, do we?
Antibiotics: crashed and burned
Tetracycline lasted 9 years, until 1959; erythromycin 15 years; gentamycin 12 years; vancomycin 16 years; ceftazidime 2 years; levofloxacin not even 1 year; and ceftaroline the same.
And now colistin, our antibiotic of last resort – the one we turn to when all others have failed – can be resisted by bacteria too.
Get the message? The cupboard is bare.
Which means within our lifetime, without being able to control infection using antibiotics, even routine medical procedures such as caesarean births, hip replacements and heart bypasses will become impossible.
Which is why Lord Jim O’Neill, AMR Review chairman for the Prime Minister, insists that doctors should only issue antibiotics against medically verified proof that they are necessary.
Lord Jim also advocates that drug companies should be strong-armed into developing new antibiotics, to keep ahead of the rising tide of resistance, with cash money incentives if necessary.
Yeah, that would be good.
Mega-buck drugs companies
Especially when Lord Jim’s own review paper identifies that drug companies are currently producing up to 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics a year. Something must be wrong with their pricing structure if they can’t finance new product development out of volumes like that.
OK, so from Lord Jim’s perspective, unless we come up with an alternative, antibiotics will stop working altogether and we’re all going to die. Antibiotics Armageddon.
And that’s just for humans.
Except around 70% of antibiotics world-wide are used to support high intensity factory farming of animals – livestock for food production. 240,000 tonnes, remember?
Now ask yourself, so antibiotic resistance is dangerous to us humans, right? But the animals are only bred for food, their lifespans are very short, not really a problem, hey?
Wrong, big time.
Those animals are farmed so intensively, antibiotics are essential to keeping them alive at all. Stressful, over- crowded quarters, unsanitary conditions – in astronomically unbelievable numbers now vital to support the three-fold population explosion of humans since antibiotics were first discovered.
Food for 3 times as many humans – OFF THE SAME AVAILABLE LAND AREA – in just 50 years.
So what happens if antibiotic resistance hits the animals?
Well, exactly like us, they can’t survive either. Nor can they breed successfully to produce more.
Which very quickly means no more food, no more manure for intensive plant crops – a massive shortfall to bring famine to at least 5 billion people – the difference between the 2½ billion we were 50 years ago and the 7½ billion we are today.
You see, the big thing about antibiotics in food production is they fatten animals up fast. Four years of growth is telescoped into six months – which is how come farmers are able to feed 3 times as many humans – OFF THE SAME AVAILABLE LAND AREA in just 50 years.
And we eat those same animals, so we consume the same antibiotics they do in the food they provide – either directly through daily dosing feedstuffs, or picked up from their manure by plants fed to them as basic forage.
Uh huh. Which means we get fat too – the antibiotics do the same thing to us. Take a look around – yup, now you know why two thirds of all adults are overweight or obese.
Except our lifespans are not the same as theirs – two years and slaughtered, ready for market.
We go on for decades and decades. Getting fatter and fatter – coming down with all the ailments that obesity triggers – diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma. All of them massive killers, accounting for way more than the 50,000 a year in the US and UK who currently die of antibiotic-resistant superbugs – like close on 30 million.
You begin to get the picture?
Billions of deaths
Either directly or indirectly, our miracle wonder-drugs are going to be responsible for BILLIONS of deaths. And they are already doing it NOW.
A, we conk out now from some horrible resistant superbug. Or B, we take thirty years to die, getting worse every day from cancer or heart disease.
Thank you, antibiotics! Our killer lifesavers. Like smoking, only worse.
And bacteria are only one type of pathogenic microbes. AMR means antimicrobial resistance, right? All microbe types. So where’s our plan for viruses, fungi, archaea, protozoa, or algae?
Well the heck with Lord Jim, the best plan is right in our bathrooms.
Soap and water. To wash the bugs off our hands – their easiest way into our bodies – through the sensitive tissue of our eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean hands, no germs.
Kinda important when you consider that unconsciously, we touch our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times a day.
Clean hands, good.
Except now, don’t touch anything, because every single thing around us – including the air – is full of viruses and bacteria.
Shock, horror! At any second, we could be exposed to life-threatening pathogens that could be the end of us. Even a paper cut could lead to sepsis – and that’s the end of us.
Except we do have a second line of defence beyond soap and water – and pretty soon you’re going to see it in operation everywhere.
Ionised hydrogen peroxide. Misted up into the air from a mobile Hypersteriliser machine. A mild eco-friendly all-natural chemical – the body makes its own for germ-fighting – composed of only water and oxygen. Dynamically dispersed in all directions by electrostatic charge – the same charge that actively reaches out to grab viruses and bacteria, oxidising them to nothing.
No germs, the place is sterile.
No need for antibiotics, you’re not exposed to anything.
Prevention is better than cure.
Not exactly a Plan B, because it won’t fight infections already in the body – Lord Jim & Co need to focus on that.
Because big though the issue of antibiotics resistance is, what’s coming is far worse.
And all we’re doing right now is rearranging the deckchairs before we smash into that iceberg full speed with our eyes wide open.
We need a Plan B, PDQ.
You see, disaster though it is, antibiotics resistance – or antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as the professionals know it – is already a side issue. The collapse of modern medicine, yes. Maybe even the collapse of the world.
Lord Jim O’Neill, AMR Review chairman for the Prime Minister, sort of hinted at it in his official paper.
Mind you, he was using it to demand that future medical use of antibiotics be severely restricted – only made available once proving tests have been made to justify administering them.
Ah, but check out Page 5 of his Review – the section on Livestock Production. Note that yearly AGRICULTURAL use of antibiotics is estimated “from around 63,000 tonnes to over 240,000 tonnes.”
240,000 tonnes – do the math. That’s 240 billion milligrams – a 32 mg dose for every one of us 7½ billion people here on Earth, EVERY YEAR.
Small yes, a sub-therapeutic dose, but exactly what animals get in their feed to fatten them up for market – accelerate their growth to super-size, super-fast.
Uh huh. The animals are farmed for food – we eat them – the antibiotics in their systems are ingested into our own.
Which means two things.
Our own bodies could already have resistance to some kinds of antibiotics from the food we eat.
We have similar metabolisms, so in the same way that they get fat, we get fat too.
And we certainly do.
Bigger killers than superbugs
It’s already pretty obvious that two thirds of us adults are already overweight. Which puts us nicely in line for all the ailments that being fat and obese bring – type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and a whole string of others. Slow killers that take 20 or 30 years to claim us. Beyond the radar for most people – including the doctors and politicians who currently shape our lives.
Must be hefty doses too, if it takes 240,000 tonnes a year to keep them going.
So what happens if antibiotics fail the animals too?
Well, living so close on top of each other, any illness is going to go through them faster than norovirus on a cruise ship. Except it probably won’t be norovirus, but something more deadly.
Remember bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – the CJD version of it? Millions of cows were destroyed to keep the disease out of the food chain.
The gruesome fact is that they were going to die anyway. Exactly the same as intensively farmed livestock around the world will do if a superbug takes hold – a runaway wildfire of animal deaths everywhere.
We’re going to get hungry
Which means overnight, no food to eat.
No lunch or supper for 7½ billion people.
Well, not quite.
50 years ago, before antibiotics were shovelled into Daisy every day, world food production managed to support 2½ million people.
On the same land area – in fact, probably less from expanding cities and new towns springing up – antibiotics have pushed that to the 7½ billion we are now.
So at best 5 billion of us are going to go hungry – two thirds of the world population.
Replacement needed – urgent
So it’s not a question of controlling antibiotics, or running round looking for new ones. It’s time to dump them altogether. To start looking for replacements before a whole load of us die.
Time for our leaders to get serious. That iceberg is a lot bigger than it looks.
Which means a whole attitude change to everything we do. And a level of watchfulness we’re not even close to right now.
Take personal hygiene. Keeping ourselves clean as much as possible, so germs don’t get a chance. Hands especially, the easiest way for germs to enter our mouths, or our eyes. Kinda basic, but just suppose your life depended on it – because it does.
If antibiotics don’t work – and ask any Doc, we’re getting close to that – any germ you catch is free to run riot inside your body. Unstoppable, unless you avoid it in the first place.
Duh, soap and water is not rocket science.
Same principle applies to anything you eat. Is it fresh, is it clean, is it germ-free? Don’t eat it if it’s not – because again, if you get sick, antibiotics won’t save you.
Same thing, even if you’re just walking down the street. Be careful, avoid accidents.
If a bus hits you and you need surgery, antibiotics won’t stop infection. The bugs are resistant and you’re a goner – unless your Doc has a brilliant Plan B.
So be super-observant, all the time. Watch what you’re doing. Avoid accidents. So you don’t get cuts, you don’t get bruised, you don’t break a leg – and you don’t needlessly breathe in someone else’s germs.
Takes all the fun out of life, huh? Or kinda demonstrates how careless we normally are.
Because pretty well every ailment or accident that happens to us is preventable – if we see it coming in the first place and avoid it.
Exactly what we must learn to do, if we are to survive without antibiotics.
And yes, we’re going to have to.
Because bacteria keep evolving all the time – have done so successfully for billions of years. So even if medical science comes up with the most amazing antibiotic yet, give it five years and bacteria will always find a way to become immune to it.
Which applies to all our drugs now, and any new ones we might develop in the future – fighting off bacteria is a never-ending battle against a constantly moving target.
Ah, but antibiotics are not the only way to kill bacteria.
They might be the most effective INSIDE your body, but OUTSIDE there are options.
The super germ-killer
And OUTSIDE is where we can get to them before they get to us.
About the most effective way is to oxidise them. Shove oxygen atoms at them that rip their cell structure apart and destroy their DNA.
Which is what hydrogen peroxide does – particularly airborne IONISED hydrogen peroxide.
Composed only of oxygen and water, hydrogen peroxide is the same all-natural germ fighter the body makes for itself. And the concentration we’re talking about is a low, non-toxic and non-corrosive 6%, the same as you can buy in the chemist for bleaching your hair – though the way we use it makes it way more potent.
It’s therefore a good idea to vacate any room being treated – though it’s environmentally friendy, the stuff can cause irritation to the eyes and throat.
Why ionise? Because that enables a very mild solution, AND changes a mild and harmless solution into a super-performing giant.
Remember the three states of matter: solid, liquid, gas?
Well, ionising a dry mist of hydrogen peroxide metamorphoses it to a fourth state – from a gas to a plasma. This charges it electrostatically, so that all the particles physically repel each other – they spread actively in all directions, forcing themselves to fill the airspace, hard up against every surface, and deep into every crack and crevice. Complete and penetrating dispersal everywhere.
The change to a plasma also releases MORE antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone (a more voracious oxidiser than hydrogen peroxide), and ultraviolet.
The negatively charged hydrogen particles reach out and grab positively charged viruses and bacteria like a magnet grabs iron filings. Locked together, contact time needs only to be a few seconds and the deed is done. ALL viruses and bacteria are destroyed to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.
Uh huh. You’ve taken precautions to protect yourself, the hydrogen peroxide protects your surroundings – the room you’re in is now completely sterile. All with just one button push on a Hypersteriliser machine.
Rescued, safe, healthy
Hang on to your hat, because it’s going to be. Already the medical heavies reckon we could be only months away from total antibiotics failure.
Except we’re ahead of the game, right? Forewarned is fore-armed.
So no, we’re not dead yet. We’re going to get clean away with it.
So if you’re dying from some superbug illness, the Doc can’t help you.
Miracle drug failure
They’ll make you plenty big though, without even trying.
Because that’s what they do on the farm – fatten up animals big and fast, for a quick buck on the market. Which is why it happens to you. You eat them, you get fat too. Very.
Which is why two-thirds of us are already overweight and the rest are following.
Don’t believe it? We’ve already got ourselves a Size 26 supermodel – and she’s not the only one.
And because so many of these same pills get shovelled into so many farm animals, the bugs they’re used against have become resistant. They are immune. However many you take, nothing happens.
Except you get fatter.
Which is why the powers that be want to restrict use of non-medical antibiotics, or get them banned altogether. The few antibiotics we do have left that work will be overwhelmed otherwise – total collapse of the modern medical system.
Of course, across the EU, antibiotics are banned as growth promoters – have been since 2006. Still allowed for health reasons though. Which with animals farmed intensively 2,000 or 3,000 together in tight spaces and nowhere to exercise or escape their own dung, becomes vitally necessary.
Which also explains why world use of antibiotics is currently around 240,000 tonnes – and set to grow 70% by 2030.
Better believe it, we’re going to get even fatter. With all those one-way disorders to look forward to that being overweight brings – diabetes, cancer, heart disease, asthma. Slow, debilitating illnesses that take years to claim you.
So it’s not just that antibiotics don’t work any more.
Frightening prospect, germ war. And it’s nearer than we think.
Right at our fingertips. Which puts us on the edge of suicide.
Well we wouldn’t step in front of a bus, would we? Or a train. Or step into an open lift-shaft.
But that’s the chance we’re taking every time we forget to wash our hands.
To clean away the germs lurking there, just waiting to find ways to invade our body.
Not always our fault of course – unless we deliberately avoid it.
We use our hands for everything – touching, holding, carrying, smoothing, squeezing, grabbing, pushing, pulling – our physical contact with the world. And every single action involves germs – on every surface around us, in the air, already on our own skin.
Most of these germs are harmless. We have our own germs to protect us – bacteria outside and inside our bodies that keep harmful invaders away by crowding them out. Our own personal germ war.
A single germ cell can’t do very much. But ganged up with others they can invade very quickly. It only takes 10 cells of norovirus to trigger a miserable stomach upset – and 10 of these tiny microscopic cells are easily scraped together by our fingers moving over something.
Next thing we touch our face and a seriously unpleasant experience becomes inevitable.
Which means washing our hands – particularly before touching our face – is our most effective way of avoiding suicide. A germ war we can win.
We look both ways before crossing the road – soap and water does the same thing. We avoid being hit by a bus – and we avoid being hit by typhoid, both of them likely to be terminal experiences.
Yeah sure, we can take a chance – and cross the road anyway. But that’s the thing about suicide, you only have to do it once.
And it’s a dangerous world out there to take chances.
You may have read recently that modern modern medicine is on the edge of collapse because our wonder-drug life-saving antibiotics are beginning not to work any more. Superbug bacteria are developing that are totally resistant, our miracle medicines do nothing.
Put that together with the rise of unexpected allergies and other disorders – and suddenly the road we’re trying to cross isn’t a quiet suburban street any more – it’s a high-speed 8-lane motorway.
Keep putting off washing your hands – and sooner or later you WILL get hit.
You might be lucky, a minor blow like norovirus or a common cold. Or you might be flattened by a pantechnicon – a small cut at first, that suddenly becomes the hulking eighteen-wheeler of sepsis – full on shut-down of the body as the immune system attacks itself, and the only way out is feet first.
So practice your kerb drill. Always wash your hands before eating food – and after going to the loo. Better still, never touch your face unless you know your hands are clean.
Just because you can’t see germs doesn’t mean they’re no there. They certainly are – and a way more unpleasant at doing yourself in than jumping into the Thames. They take time, they hurt, they destroy the person that you are – until you pass away, a sorry shadow of suffering and misery.
So yeah, it’s a germ war. And yeah, it’s going on all the time.
Sure you can get unlucky. But when it’s so easy to be a smiling survivor, why put yourself at risk? Why wait for cholera, TB or pneumonia to come busting in with a gun to your head – and your whole world goes for a loop?
Rediscover hygiene, wash your hands thoroughly, keep yourself clean – and live to a ripe old age.
Trundle down the meat aisle at your local supermarket.
Just about anything you choose will have antibiotics in it.
Not a big dose, no more than a smidgen. But chances are high that they will be there.
Inevitable really. When you consider how much antibiotics are used by farmers around the world. Estimates vary from 65,000 to 240,000 tonnes. Set to grow around 70% by 2030.
All pumped into animals as part of their feed – deliberately added to make them grow faster. And bigger. Ready for market in a quarter of the time. A miracle side effect of antibiotics.
In fact antibiotics boost growth so much, the world can feed 5 billion more than 50 years ago. Three times more off the same land area – a money-making goldmine.
Which is how come we’re ingesting antibiotics too. And highly likely, antibiotic resistant bacteria with them. Superbugs that have grown immune to the wonder drugs being chucked at them. Untreatable, unstoppable and living in our own gut right now – ready to take us down at any sign of weakness. Or maybe already doing so.
Every little helps – a little too much
You see, it doesn’t take much to get antibiotics to boost growth. Much lower doses than curing an illness. Sub-therapeutic amounts that cost less and go further.
Uh huh. Doses too small to kill pathogenic bacteria completely. The hardy ones survive and become resistant. And it’s the resistant ones that breed, whole colonies immune to treatment.
Worse, bacteria have the ability to pass on their characteristics. They can teach others how to become immune too. In a few generations – which can be as soon as twenty minutes – a whole slew of other bacteria develop antimicrobial resistance, more and more and more. Equally untreatable, equally unstoppable.
And that’s what you’re buying when you visit the meat counter. What you’re taking home to feed your family. So they ingest antibiotics-resistant bacteria too. Which maybe they’re strong enough to withstand, or maybe not.
So when the Doc diagnoses their illness and prescribes a particular antibiotic – absolutely nothing happens. Down in their gut, the bacteria laugh it off.
No escape for vegetarians
Don’t think that going vegetarian will help you much either.
Pretty well most plant crops are treated with antibiotics of some kind or other – to boost growth or reduce disease or both. And if that’s not enough, they’re probably fertilised by manure from animals that have been fed antibiotics anyway. The stuff is so fertile because most of them only digest 80-90% of what they eat, the rest is excreted as waste.
Super-grow wonder-poo laced with antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria both. Which is ingested by plants, fed back to animals in specially grown feed crops, leaches into the ground to enrich future crops – and runs off into our waterways to wind up in our taps.
Get the message?
Whatever you choose from the meat section – or poultry, or produce, or dairy, or even bakery, is almost certain to contain both resistant superbugs and traces of antibiotics.
All this and obesity too
If you don’t get ill immediately, your body may develop resistance to certain medicines in the future. And of course, since every mouthful doses you with proven growth boosters, there’s every chance that you will start getting fat – even though you work out like crazy, eat very modestly, and watch your health like a hawk.
But don’t go bashing your supermarket. Quite probably in the entire organisation, nobody will have any idea that superbugs are an issue, or that antibiotics are contained in almost all the foodstuff they sell.
What can you do?
Well, you don’t know whatever’s grown on the manure-chain, so even going organic might not help. Nor going 100% vegetarian. About the best will be to grow your own veg – and switch to ocean fresh fish, the kind that can’t be farmed. There may be other pollutants in there, but hey, we’re so careless about the whole planet, that’s inevitable. It can’t be as bad as the constant dosing we’ve all had up to now.
Global headache for medics
Makes you appreciate how worried the Docs are from the medical standpoint.
Seen today’s news? In Thailand they’re already talking about a “collapse of the modern medical system” staring us in the face. And our own Dr Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, is warning that with the drug companies reluctant to develop new antibiotics because there’s no money in it, then this is a problem that is for ever.
Yeah, well. Excuse us, Mr Moneybags Drug Company, but if you’re already producing 240,000 tonnes a year, how much profit do you need to make?
And when are we going to stop also being part of the problem, all by our little selves?
Here we are, worried to death about the abuse of antibiotics, and yet we demand 10 MILLION prescriptions a year are written for conditions where they’re absolutely useless.
We’re not doctors, so what do we know?
But that doesn’t stop us demanding antibiotics for colds and minor infections where they would actually do more harm than good. We kid ourselves we know best and put the strong-arm on the Doc – who caves in to the aggro, so that 97% of us get the unnecessary meds we’re hucking for. And if we can’t get it that way, we run off and buy it on the Internet.
Is this a death wish, or what?
One thing’s for certain, it’s we ourselves who have to take action. The global problem is so big, it may never be resolved in our lifetime.
Because this is one of those “not any more” stories.
Not any more the nasties, not any more the miseries.
Because not so long ago, getting rid of germs was more like getting rid of you.
No more schlep
It took hard scrubbing to get the place clean. With stuff so strong it took the top of your head off. Your eyes ran. You coughed and sneezed. Plus your back ached, your fingers were rubbed raw, exactly as if the germs had got you.
Yeah, well that’s what slaving away with bleach will do. And the place always smells terrible afterwards. Headaches, itchy skin – we’ve all been there.
OK, so the wise guys decided to fog the place up. You still had to scrub, but the germ-killer was spread through the air, hopefully reaching everywhere – especially all those hidey-holes no-one could reach.
Trouble was, that stuff was potent too. Toxic de luxe.
Doing your head in
Have you ever smelt aerosolised formaldehyde? Or those quaternary ammonium compounds? Which is why the CDC recommend not to use them.
Not just yuck. You’d die too, if you were a germ.
Except they don’t, do they? Germs, that is. Not in serious enough numbers at least. The place just stinks and there’s still the risk of infection. But that was back then.
Next thing they tried was ethylene oxide – EtO to the initiated. It killed germs better but was way too potent. A bit too toxic too. Still made you think your head was going to burst.
Hi, hydrogen peroxide
Then somebody had a brainwave and chose hydrogen peroxide – high powered, a known oxidiser, decomposed to just oxygen and water afterwards – what was not to like?
Too watery was the first part. It needed special dryers to get rid of the damp. Which made it dodgy with electrical stuff and computers. Short circuits and things. Risky.
Still too strong was the second part. Sure you can buy hydrogen peroxide at the chemist in a 3% solution. Safe to use at home. But way too weak to spray into the air and clobber nasties like clostridium difficile or MRSA. To do that, you had to rack it way up – 32% and even higher.
Back to the watering eyes and sore throat. And a bit more than that.
Did we mention strong oxidising properties? Because at 32% it’s a bit iffy – strong enough to eat plastic and chew certain metals, a bit too enthusiastic on all kinds of surfaces – especially with repeat treatments.
Ah, but that’s vaporised hydrogen peroxide. Mixed with water and sprayed as thin as possible. That’s why the 32%. Spread out into little tiny droplets it needs all that oomph to be sure of clobbering the germs. And it certainly does that – all viruses and bacteria are oxidised to nothing.
Except 32% is way too hazardous for general use. It needs specially trained staff, work areas have to be evacuated, and everybody needs to wear protective clothing.
Hello, ionised alternative
The revolution is ionised hydrogen peroxide. A safe process that makes it way more effective. And allows it to be milder – only a 6% solution instead of 32%, same as you can buy in Boots for doing your hair. Remember peroxide blondes?
There’s two ways to ionise the stuff – heat or electricity.
Heat is preferred because it is cheaper. All them hydrogen peroxide atoms get hot under the collar until they develop a charge, usually negative – which makes them reach out and grab at pathogens, usually positively charged, like iron filings to a magnet.
Electricity is the clever alternative – and it also means low temperature operation, no risk of melting anything the stuff come in contact with.
At the sprayer nozzle a great fat electric arc charges the parting atoms, forcing them to spread apart from each other because like charges repel. This means the hydrogen peroxide actively spreads itself out and away, reaching deep into cracks and crevices trying to escape from itself. Positively forced dispersal unlike of the vaporised stuff, which just billows like steam.
This spreadability means the droplets can be smaller, finer and ride the air better – especially with the lighter load of the 6% solution. Drier too. No moisture to mess up keyboards or cabling. And of course, too mild to attack surfaces, even sensitive ones.
No compromise on performance though. Ionising physically changes the state of the hydrogen peroxide from a gaseous vapour to a plasma – a charged gas. The effect is like hitting the turbo button. Even more antimicrobials are suddenly produced – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, super-oxidising ozone and ultraviolet – all of them potent germ-busters. 6% running on steroids.
Souped up performance
A word of caution though. Yes, it’s safe. But this IS hydrogen peroxide and it IS potent, unless you’re wearing protection, stay away. Hoicked up with radicals and stuff, its oxidising strength is way more than the 32% version.
OK, so ionised hydrogen peroxide spreads better, uses a weaker solution, kills germs more effectively, is drier and gentler to surfaces, and still becomes harmless after action, reverting back to just oxygen and water – so little water that it evaporates before it touches anything.
And push button simple with a Hypersteriliser. Just wheel the thing in, connect to power, press the button, and get out of Dodge. Allow forty odd minutes for the average-sized room and the place is totally sterile – Log 6 kill to be precise, 99.9999% of germs utterly gone.
So now you’re safe. From germs, from nasty smells, from carry-over effects.
Eating meat — bacteria in meat is increasingly resistant to antibiotics and can kill us.
A cut or scratch — before penicillin, 1 in 9 skin infections killed.
Any surgical cut or incision — openings for even minor ops leave us open to infection.
Dialysis or blood transfusion — any open blood vessel is susceptible to sepsis.
Insect bites — especially the itchy ones, leading to infections from scratching.
Colds or flu — even mild infections cause pneumonia. Without antibiotics, 30% of cases kill.
Childbirth — which used to kill 5 mothers out of 1000, and more by Caesarean.
Any cannula, ventilator or catheter.
Surgical implants like artificial hips or pacemakers.
Burns of any kind —the most infection-prone type of wound.
Cosmetic surgery — without antibiotics, even Botox injections is no longer risk free.
Tattoos — even the slightest skin blemish is open to infection.
So if anything happens to us, anything physical that is, about the only thing we’ll be able to do is wash it clean with soap and water. And properly, not just waggling around under the tap. Because if we’re suddenly socked by bacteria threatening enough to need antibiotics and soap and water is our defence, we’ve got to relearn everything there is about proper hygiene.
Make no mistake either, it’s ONLY soap and water that will do the job.
Why wipes wipe out
Antibacterial wipes are out of it – for the simple reason that bacteria are able to resist them too, as researchers at Cardiff University have recently demonstrated. And if MRSA, clostridium difficile and acinetobacter are able develop antimicrobial resistance (AMR), so can others. Worse, the wipes transfer resistant bacteria from one place to another, SPREADING contamination further.
Antibacterial soap suffers the same defect.
The triclosan ingredient mostly widely used to deter bacteria is shown by the US Centers for Disease Control to be itself prone to AMR, to the extent that major manufacturers are voluntarily withdrawing it and hunting for alternatives.
How about antibacterial gel?
Same only different. The active ingredient is alcohol, which breaks down the proteins of bacteria and some viruses, but not all of them. And without antibiotics to protect us, we don’t want something which does half the job.
Low tech and easy
Which brings us back to soap and water. Low tech, yes, but maybe cleverer than we think.
For one thing, most bacteria are either harmless or benign. So although we’re surrounded by them, we don’t want to wash off all of them – some of our usually resident “citizens” might actually be doing us some good. Soap and water action lets us keep these guys, but gets rid of the toxic “tourists” who might be threatening us.
Yeah, so rediscovering hygiene is not exactly going to kill us. Quite the opposite.
And as we’ve probably heard endlessly from our grandmothers, a little soap and water never hurt anyone.