Monthly Archives: October 2016

Watch out! Your car could be killing you!

Woman slumped at wheel
There’s more dangers lurking IN our cars than we ever think

It can happen any time, or any place.  You’re just sitting in your car, parked up and going nowhere,  then foops – you’re on your way to being a goner.

No, no, not an accident. Though you never intended this to occur.

You’re just sitting there, engine off and handbrake on, maybe waiting at the school gate.

Unwanted passengers

But you’re not alone.

You can’t see them, but there’s upwards of 300 million germs sharing the car with you. And while you’re waiting, chatting on the phone and nibbling an indulgent pastry, you just happen to swallow a few hundred in.

You don’t feel it at the time of course. There’s no trace of anything wrong anyway. You keep the car spotless, down to the car wash every week. And those cheery folk do a full valet service – get rid of any rubbish, vacuum everything carefully. How in the world can you catch a bug?

All too easy, though you’d never know it.

Because a car is one of those places that easily LOOK clean when they’re anything but.

OK, so it’s you and the kids on the school run, taking the dog to the park, a couple of long hauls to visit the in-laws, where’s the danger in that?

Crumbs, germs, crikey!

Eating and drinking is what. And we all do it, without even realising.

Obviously not while driving. Though everyone is. A quick munch on the way home, a bottle of juice on a hot summer day – those little ones can be so demanding.

Which means crumbs on the seats and the odd spill – nothing that a quick wipe can’t fix, right?

Wrong.

However thoroughly you wipe, you never get everything. And stuff fragments as you try, breaking apart and falling down the sides. Into the “ungetatable” space between the seats and the floor sides.

And it’s usually food, right? So it breaks down and rots. Little bits here and there – nothing you’ll ever pick up unless you have a sensitive nose.

Bugs, bugs, bugs

Bacteria, right there – usually escherichia coli. Harmless to most of us, even though it lives naturally in our gut. Except there’s more than one strain of the thing, many of them pathogenic – medic-speak for saying they’re dangerous.

Like strain O157:H7, which can cause anaemia, kidney failure or even death. Plus, get ANY strain of e.coli in the wrong place – like in your bloodstream – and you’re in big trouble.

But e.coli is not the only one by a long shot. Salmonella and campylobacter are also regular passengers, both of which can cause illnesses, sometimes fatal. And both can survive for up a month inside your car, lurking on the steering wheel, gear stick, or dashboard.

And pretty well all cars regularly carry common bacteria, such as staphylococcus epidermidis, staphylococcus aureus and micrococcus luteus.

Mould and fungi too

Nor is bacteria the only hazard. Comes the wet weather with kids and dogs leaping in and out of the car dripping wet – next thing you’ve got mould. And mould leads to allergies, asthma and eczema.  Or in severe cases, like actress Brittany Murphy, fatal pneumonia.

OK, so basically germ-infested, right? And if you don’t believe us, check out this video here.

Recognise yourself?

So what can you do about it? Wiping down is not good enough. Nor is going berserk with the vacuum cleaner. You’ve got to get down and dirty in those teensy inaccessible gaps behind the seats and under the carpets.

And with way more firepower than bleach.

“Bacteria bomb”

Time to get yourself a “bacteria bomb” if you haven’t already. Not the ordinary can, but the half-sized 4oz job you can keep in your hand bag.

Capped 4 oz can
Self protection on the go – like MACE for germs

Yeah, OK, at around £12 a pop, it’s not cheap. But do you want to get rid of the germs or don’t you? And what does a whole valet service cost you? £50? £80? Right there in your bag is just the thing to fog up your entire car and take out the germs. Psst! 60 seconds and you’re done.

Just make sure you open all the windows and let the stuff out when it’s finished. It fills your car up like a smoke bomb but is way fresher, sort of lemony afterwards.

Oh, and that’s not the only reason to open up your car. Like with all these climate change non-winters we’ve been having, high temperatures bake your car full of breathable toxins too. Like benzene from the plastic of the dash and interior trim. Check out this video here.

Every week, like the car wash

Plus remember, if you want to stay safe and germ-free, you’ve got to keep at it too. Just like cleaning your teeth only lasts until your next meal, so treating your car needs regular attention too. The next Coke spill or upended packet of chips and you’re back where you started.

Think of it though as another way to keep you safe in your car. Like a crash helmet or a seat belt. Essential, huh?

Picture Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

How keeping up with fashion could save your life

Girl looking at handbag
Not so good-looking when your personal go-everywhere companion is full of germs

Start with your handbag. How much more fashion does it get?

The latest from Prada or Hermes could set you back a fortune – and they only last a season. After that, they’re last year. Or last century. Gotta keep up.

Of course not all of us can stretch to a designer original.

But there’s still plenty reason to splash out on the latest, particularly your bag. And the best excuse ever.

Germs.

Well think about it. You carry it with you everywhere, you’ve got your whole life in there. But how often do you you clean it? REALLY clean it, that is – making sure the whole thing is safe and disinfected?

Far from soap and water

Because you do it with your hands don’t you? Wash before eating and after the loo, the hygiene part of keeping neat and presentable.

Meanwhile your bag goes through everything with you – trusty, reliable, always to hand. But pretty well every day without a bath. Plenty of opportunity for germs to get in there – and they do.

Only last week an independent laboratory report turned up a whole host of possible life-threatening bacteria in bags only a few months old. Nearly all of them were positive for serratia, enterobacter, aeromonas, staphylococcus epidermidis. pediococcus, hafnia and proteus.

Or worse, alive with potential threats leading to pneumonia, urinary tract infections, septicaemia, meningitis, diarrhoea, and soft tissue disorders. Exactly the fashion items nobody wants.

Oh sure, sure – you can try cleaning your bag. Climbing in with antibacterial wipes or whatever. Not likely to be effective because they don’t have the firepower. Not potent enough, not enough contact time. Most likely of all, unable get into every little fold and corner.

And you’re not likely to try anything too strong are you? It might stain or attack the lining – or make the whole thing smell of bleach. Impossible, right?

Saved by fashion

Time to go shopping – and treat yourself to a new one. Right in fashion and bang up to date. As if you could hold back your enthusiasm!

But think further and it’s not just handbags. There’s a whole slew of other fashion items to justify your indulgence too. Good, clean, hygienic reasons to replace what you have, because sterilising them is too hazardous or too difficult.

Washable clothes, for instance. Anything with pockets – jeans, shirts, whatever – where germs are most likely to gather. You probably wouldn’t hot-wash them – colours would run and they’d lose their texture.

But those gentle cold water washes will do zip for your health. To be sure of clobbering most germs, water needs to be at least 60⁰C – too hot to hold your hand under. They need time at that temperature too – exactly how to make things shrink so you’ll never get into them.

Actually, the germ problem sits with everything personal that takes a lot of handling. So the safe route is to disinfect what you can and replace what you can’t.

Personal threats all round

Your phone, keys, money and cosmetics containers can all be wiped down – good reason to carry antibacterial wipes everywhere. Wallets and purses too – not forgetting make-up or toiletries bags.

And if you need convincing, take a look at the smudges and smears on your touchscreen after only a few minutes. Them’s germs, waiting to get you. And being ill is never in fashion.

It’s less easy with bigger items equally as personal – especially with cold weather coming. Coats and jackets have pockets where things get put and long forgotten. They’re not cleaned every day either, maybe not even for a whole winter. All kinds of nasties in there, ew!

OK, so dry clean them.

Not as safe as replacing. The heat is not hot enough or long enough to be sure of killing germs. And the perchlorethylene solvent most cleaners use only partially kills bacteria.

How about gloves and scarves?

Total germ factories – outside and in.

Clean hands made dirty

Outside of course, gloves touch everything that everybody else does – handles, grab rails, knobs, hanging straps, push bars, balustrades – everything in the tube, on the bus. Comes the end of the day – total yuck. And we still grab them in our teeth while we scramble for our front door keys!

Inside is even riskier because we never think to clean them. And our hands go in after whatever they’re been doing. Sometimes clean, most often not – picking up a growing colony of germs that never get looked at. And who ever cleans gloves?

Different materials, silk, leather and wool. Pull skew, shrink, distort and probably easily strained by the cleaner too. Doable but difficult. Replace, replace, replace. You get the picture.

And scarves wrapped round your face? All those germs near your mouth and nose? Do yourself a favour!

All of which is why buying new is good for your health – and could actually save your life. You’re in fashion and the pink of good health too.

Clever you. Good-looking too.

Picture Copyright: micchaelpuche / 123RF Stock Photo

But does your cleaning service get rid of germs?

Biz exec on phone
Germ-free in the workplace – the BIG difference between clean and safe

You’ve seen your cleaning service in action, right?

Working late, in comes the swamp-out team, embroidered polo shirts and latex gloves – all very efficient.

And sure thing, cleaning is what they do. Harry vacuum cleaner on a long lead, waste bins emptied into black plastic bags, desks wiped down with a J-cloth.

An hour tops, and they’re out of there – wham, bam, thank you ma’am.

Oh yes, and once a month they clean the windows, wipe the sills and straighten all the pictures.

Looks clean, but germs are invisible

OK, so the place looks clean, but appearances aren’t everything. And doing anything further is outside their remit. You want clean, you get clean.

Except that wall where the busted rainwater pipe cascades down the outside bricks?

There’s damp coming through and mould beginning to show – right next to where the top customer service team hit the phones all day. Experienced experts with heavy pay cheques, but always one of them down with a cough or sniffle.

Call facilities management, right. But they never answer the phone. No joy anyway, with the manager always off in Lanzarote, Ibiza, or wherever. Nice for some.

Meantime you have to wonder. Windows shut against the cold, warm air gusting down from the air-con duct. Stirring up the germs and everybody breathing the same stuff. How safe are your people anyway?

OK, there’s two of them expecting and most have had their flu jabs. But how about the tummy bug that floored  six of them last week? Not a good time to be off, and the office is still playing catch-up. A big dip in the figures when you least expect it.

Germs everywhere – a business hazard

Oh sure, the cleaning service do their job.

But by now the realisation’s hitting home that clean does not necessarily mean safe. Maybe it LOOKS clean, but there is a duty of care to all staff. And nobody wants illness to punch holes in their bottom line.

So, germs. Where do you start?

Google it, and you’ll find the average desk has over 10 million germs at any one time.

And there’s more in the air. Together with our own personal germ clouds that all of us have. That’s 80% of the room space teeming with potential health hazards. Invisible of course because they’re too small to see. But you’ll know all about it when absentees start happening.

Fortunately, there is immediate protection you can ensure. And easy enough for your cleaning service to bolt on as part of their regular package.

First they tidy up and clean like normal. Then they let fly with their germ-busting kit.

If you want to work late now, better take it home with you. It’s not harmful and that stuff that’s used is mild, but getting rid of germs requires eye protection and a breathing kit. No need to suffer irritation unnecessarily.

Germs to oblivion

That’s because the germ-buster of choice is hydrogen peroxide. Ionised to spread evenly as a dry, super-fine mist through the air in all directions – hard up against walls, ceilings and floors, reaching under and behind, deep into cracks and crevices.

Ionising also charges every particle. Causing them to reach and grab viruses and bacteria – all of which are oppositely-charged. The particles clamp to them like magnets, ripping them apart by oxidising them. Shoving oxygen atoms at them that tears apart their cell structure.

Around 40 minutes is all it takes. To generate the mist, disperse and activate – reverting back to harmless oxygen and water afterwards. In that time 99.9999% of ALL germs are annihilated – in the air, on surfaces, around all objects, everywhere.

No viruses, no bacteria, no fungi or mould either – though the landlord will still have to fix that pipe.

The small amount of water quickly evaporates – no risk to electrical connections and computer cables- leaving a microscopic layer of colloidal silver as a lasting germ barrier. The room is now safe to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Easy-peasy? You bet.

All it takes with the Hypersteriliser machine is wheel it in, hit the button, and let everything happen automatically. With clever circulating, the cleaning service could clean and sterilise your whole place in not much longer than they do now.

No germs anywhere. Clean, secure, safe.

Your employees ought to like that. So should your balance sheet.

Put it to your cleaning service. How about it?

Picture Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

Hey, give yourself a break – it’s not your fault you’re fat

Plus size businesswoman
Too much of a good thing – and through none of your own doing

First off, you’re not alone. Around two thirds of us are fat too – sharing the same problem, suffering the same angst. Already overweight or clinically obese.

We never used to be like that. Twenty years ago, most people our age were comfortably Size 12. Size wasn’t an issue – and we ATE THE SAME THINGS WE DO NOW. In the same amounts.

So what’s changed?

We’re stressed, every hour of the day, trying everything to lose the pounds. Which works for some – but who wants to live on rabbit food, or spend every day in the gym?

And who says we’re all couch potatoes – pigging out on chips and Coke in front of the TV?

Wrongly accused

We don’t chug sugary drinks, or guts burgers ten at a time. We’re ordinary people, trying to lead ordinary lives and something cruel is ballooning us against our will.

Yes, it’s a fat epidemic – but nobody’s twigged the cause.

Doctors tut-tut about BMI. Politicians and celebrities rabbit on about sugar tax. Meanwhile nobody has a clue. Because if they had, we would know about it, so all we’re doing is getting fatter.

Well maybe ONE person has it figured. In a speech to the House of Lords back in June, Lord McColl, emeritus professor of surgery at Guys Hospital, said, “It is impossible to be obese unless one is eating too many calories.”

Wise words. But hmmm – that doesn’t jell with those of us eating like birds in desperation stakes. Sure, we’ll lose weight if we stop eating altogether. And then? A one-way ticket to oblivion.

Eat too many calories, maybe. But ABSORB too many calories, definitely. Extract too much out of the food we eat, and so we pile on the pounds.

But how is this possible?

Unwanted additive we don’t even know is there

Look no further than your favourite supermarket.

All those shelves are loaded with food in quantities far greater than 20 years ago. Well sure, there’s more of us. More mouths to feed – the pressure is on to keep those gaping warehouses topped up.

Which puts the pressure on food producers to grow more crops and rear more livestock. Picture-book country farms have now become massive factory farms, getting everything to market in as quick a time as possible.

Uh huh, you’re right. Not possible without something to speed up the process. To boost growth in a way that makes everything fatter, quicker. From egg to roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From new-born calf to Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.

That’s the amazing and unexpected bonus of antibiotics.

See what a factory farm looks like and antibiotics are essential anyway. Overcrowded, often unsanitary, those miracle drugs are necessary to keep animals alive.

Result. Antibiotics are shovelled into animal feed around the world at the rate of 240,000 tonnes a year. And the tons of manure they make become fertiliser for every kind of vegetable, seed and fruit crop. So that residual antibiotics are present in every kind of food you can think of.

Growth boosters in our diet

With every mouthful, you’re ingesting small amounts of the same amazing growth boosters used to accelerate food production across the board. Like the animals bulk up, so do you. The fat drug makes you squeeze more nutrients out of the food you eat, you just can’t help yourself.

Without your knowing or doing anything, fatness has sneaked up on you to burst you at the seams.

It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s endangering your health. Because pushed over into obesity, there’s nasties like diabetes, heart disease and cancer waiting for you. Our life-saving miracle drugs have become killers.

What can you do?

Not a lot. We all have to eat – but pretty well everything we buy in the supermarket will have traces of antibiotics, continuing our unwanted “treatment”.

One way is to go organic. But while food produced by organic farmers might tick all the boxes, there’s no guarantee that “natural” manure used to nurture their products are free from antibiotics.

Most cows excrete 80% of the food they ingest, Nature’s way sustaining life down to the smallest microcosm. That means 80% of their dose winds up in the soil.

To be taken up by plants or leach down into the water table – so that even the stuff in your tap includes traces of antibiotics.

Will power versus drugs

Uh huh. So grow your own at home. Without fertiliser, without anything. Using only rainwater.

Or just bite the bullet and deliberately try to eat less. We’ll always be hungry, but at least our minds will be razor sharp. We might be fat, but we’re not fatheads.

Let’s save that category for the long list of experts, do-gooders, authorities, celebrities and health freaks who know about the problem but do nothing about it.

Picture Copyright: hugofelix / 123RF Stock Photo

Should daily cleaning go further? And how far keeps you safe?

Hazmat girl
Yes, you CAN get better protection than from just mop and bucket

Yeah, yeah, we do daily cleaning to get rid of the dirt. The place would be a mess otherwise – a breeding ground for germs.

Which uncovers the real reason for all the rubbing and scrubbing. We’re doing it for our health.

But most times just LOOKING clean is not enough. We need to know we’re safe.

Rub and scrub needs more

Which means somehow mop and sponge need more oomph – without making the place stink of bleach. Finding a way of getting into all the nooks and crannies. Because even scrubbing with a toothbrush will not reach everywhere. Those germs are microscopic – they look at us and laugh.

OK, so first germ-killing requirement – clean everything as usual, THEN disinfect. And whatever we’re using has to reach everywhere.

Especially underneath things, on top of them, down the back, and all the way behind. Places that don’t usually get cleaned.  Too difficult to reach by hand. Unused or forgotten corners. Out of sight, out of mind.

And how about the space we move around in – the air?

Most germs are tiny, less than 3 microns across. At that size, bacteria, viruses and fungal spores can ride the air – lighter than smoke. They’re up there, so almost weightless they may never come down. Waiting to settle on your skin, on the food you’re about to nosh – or for you to breathe in.

Impossible by hand

Uh huh. If your cleaning job has to get rid of germs, it has to do the air too.  That’s around 80% of the space in an average room. Never usually gets a look at, does it?

No chance ordinary 9-to-5 cleaning can hack it. And there’s even less chance if it’s done by hand.

Better by smart machine. Clean the place as usual to get rid of visible dirt. Then press one button and Bob’s your uncle.

Fortunately there are such jobbies – all of them designed to disinfect the air as well as surfaces.

Ultraviolet generators kill germs by exposure to UV light. Wheel the unit in, make sure everybody’s out, shut the doors and windows, press the button.  The thing emits UV rays in all directions for about 5 minutes, killing 99.99% of bacteria and viruses – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 4.

The problem is though, that only germs in direct line of sight from the machine are destroyed. Anything behind or under something gets missed. Either the machine gets repositioned for another go, or that “shadow” area goes unprocessed.

Other machines fog the room out with airborne disinfectant – usually a spray of hydrogen peroxide. This kills bacteria and viruses by oxidising – shoving oxygen atoms at them, ripping apart their cell structure. Very effective, if done right.

Exactly how they disperse the fog – and how effective they are at nailing the germs, is critical.

Call in the air force

Hydrogen peroxide vapour for instance, needs a strong concentration to be effective – 32% or more. This makes it a hazardous substance to work with, harmful to body tissue.

Its droplets are also heavier, more full of moisture and less able to ride the air. Dispersal is patchy and a drying process is necessary afterwards – a bit iffy with electrical cables and corrosive with some materials.

What’s needed is a low concentration of low temperature dry mist. Eco-friendly stuff that spreads evenly everywhere. No moisture. No damage to metal or plastics. No danger to cables and connections. Only mildly irritant to eyes and throat – but then folks should be out of there anyway.

The difference comes in IONISING the hydrogen peroxide.

Remember how boiling changes the state of water into steam? So ionising changes the state of ultra-fine hydrogen peroxide vapour into a plasma.

Super-gas, gas, gas

What’s a plasma? A kind of super-gas in which all the particles are charged. And because they all carry the same charge, they actively repel each other, jostling strongly, thrusting to get away.

This forces them out, driving in all directions. All through the air. Hard up against walls, floors and ceilings. Deep into cracks and crevices, wherever they can push to escape each other.

Bad news for viruses and bacteria because they are charged too. But with opposite polarity – so the rapidly dispersing hydrogen peroxide particles grab at them like a magnet.

Clutched in a vice-grip, unable to escape, they’re dead within seconds.

They never have a chance anyway. Ionising the hydrogen peroxide releases other antimicrobials as well – boosting the potency of the plasma. Hydroxyl radicals, oxygen species, nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet. No way any germs are coming back from that.

OK, so how’s it done?

The machine we like is a nifty thing called a Hypersteriliser. Wheel it in, hit the button, give it 40 minutes for the stuff to disperse and activate. Easy-peasy.

A million times safer

Vent the room as a precaution afterwards, though there should be no residues. The action of oxidising germs turns the hydrogen peroxide back to harmless oxygen and water – which immediately evaporates. A microscopic layer of colloidal silver remains on all surfaces – a protective antimicrobial barrier that lasts up to a week.

Result? All germs are dead down to just 1 in a million – 99.9999% destroyed, to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6. Reckon you can say you’re safe.

Certainly way safer than mop and bucket, which probably gets rid of only 90% – around 1 in 100,000. Not good if that 100,00 includes this year’s flu virus – or a stomach-twisting dose of norovirus.

So yes, you can take daily cleaning routines a lot further – just by pressing a button.

No need for the hazmat suit. You’re up to a million times safer.

Picture Copyright: stockasso / 123RF Stock Photo

Eek, not food poisoning! Keep calm and cook food thoroughly

Woman butcher
Hygiene and common sense – we’re not utterly defenceless

Relax, nobody’s going to die. Or get the collywobbles . Or anything.

As long as everything is properly cooked, we’re all going to be fine.

Because unless you’re into sushi or steak tartare, nobody eats meat raw, do they?

And if whatever you’re preparing is affected by any bacteria or something, most germs are destroyed by the high temperatures of cooking – everybody’s safe.

Take our current scare with chicken.

There’s all kinds of  official bodies jumping up and down because nearly three-quarters of the chicken in any supermarket is contaminated with campylobacter. Nasty upset tummies with that one, some people can get quite seriously ill.

Inconvenient truths

But here’s a fact of life. Pretty well most poultry has campylobacter. It occurs naturally in birds and may even be necessary for healthy existence. So chickens aren’t contaminated, they’re colonised. Cooked thoroughly, they’re perfectly safe.

It’s like we don’t eat fish with scales, or prawns with the blue vein. They could make you ill too if you were careless enough. It’s part of proper food prep, like shelling eggs, skinning oranges or peeling potatoes.

Of course you DO have to clean everything thoroughly as you do it. Knives, chopping boards, prep surfaces and all utensils need a good scrub after working with chicken. So do your hands, to avoid any risk infection.

But you were going to do all that anyway – WEREN’T you?

It’s the same with Danish bacon. Still about the best you can buy anywhere – but these days unfortunately nearly three-quarters of all Danish pork is afflicted with MRSA.

Well, with so many mouths to feed around the world, we were the ones who pressured farmers in Denmark and elsewhere into boosting production with antibiotics. Shovelling the stuff into livestock in industrial quantities too – 240,000 tonnes a year and skyrocketing.

Superbugs everywhere

Small wonder then that with hundreds of thousands of pigs, any bacteria they were carrying developed resistance. So now we have LA-MRSA (Livestock Associated Methicillin Resistant Streptococcus Aureus) THREATENING us, just like campylobacter.

Well, yes. Except that just like campylobacter, cook that Danish pork properly and all trace of LA-MRSA is removed – the bacon is safe to eat, just like previously.

And right there are two examples of highly popular food types that on the surface present a hazard, but with proper precautions are really nothing to worry about.

Yes, it is disturbing that superbugs like MRSA are in our food. But with antibiotics being used by agriculture in such astronomic quantities, we should heed and take precautions anyway. More than likely all kinds of food types are laced with other superbugs and we need to be on our guard.

At least we can turn up the heat and get rid of most of them – part of the cooking we are already doing.

Worse than superbugs

Much more worrying are residual traces of the antibiotics themselves, which heat cannot get rid of unless you boil your food for hours, losing all taste and appeal.

All those animals were fed antibiotics to keep them healthy in the super-crowded environment of factory farms (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). With the money-making side effect that they fattened up for market in a quarter of the time.

Yeah, well – we eat those animals, we swallow the same antibiotics, we fatten up too. On the one-way road to obesity with all the inevitable complications – diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Literally to a dead end.

Getting rid of the antibiotics – that’s an issue all of us face and none of us are ready for.  A headache for governments and health authorities for years to come.

Superbugs in our food though – they’re a problem too, but we can make them go away.

Guess that answers the question, hey? Would you prefer rare, medium or well-done?

Picture Copyright: leaf / 123RF Stock Photo

Why taking antibiotics is like chopping off your leg

Crazy girl with knife
Without knowing it, we’re doing ourselves more harm than good

Crazy, right? Round the twist. Who in their right mind would want to chop their leg off?

But that’s how crazy we are when we take antibiotics.

We don’t think so, of course.  But without knowing it, we’re doing ourselves serious harm.

Because antibiotics are prescribed to do one thing – kill bacteria.

Killers as life-savers?

And surprise, surprise, though none of us ever realise it – our own bodies are more bacteria than human, our cells outnumbered by more than 10 to 1.

Seems impossible and about-face, but that’s actually a good thing.

Bacteria are one of the longest-lasting life forms on Earth. Amazing survivors too. Capable of withstanding fierce high temperatures. Triple-figure sub-zero freezing temperatures. Even living and breeding in acid.

Our bodies are colonised by hundreds of trillions of these remarkable creatures. They’re vitally necessary to handle our digestion, produce proteins and manage our immune systems – among thousands of other functions. They live with our human cells in harmony – and we could not exist without them.

So yeah, we take antibiotics to kill bacteria that are harming us. The WRONG bacteria in the WRONG place, running amok among the RIGHT bacteria that are who we are.

Oh dear – chop, chop, chop.

A bomb in the guts

Because in targeting harmful bacteria, those same antibiotics inevitably kill some of our good bacteria too. Their killer action is spread wide to be sure of effectiveness. So our own systems take a hit – though we may not know it at the time.

The bacteria inside us know it though, particularly in our gut. To the trillions and trillions that live in our insides, a dose of antibiotics is like exploding a hydrogen bomb.  Millions get the chop.

Sure some of them regrow, reproducing themselves sometimes in as little as 20 minutes. But not all. Some are damaged and can’t do their job. Others –  the rarer ones – might be lost altogether. Our gut population depleted, our bio-diversity gone.

We might feel the same when our illness passes – back to normal and our usual selves.

But we’re not.

Biggest of the known side effects of antibiotics is growth promotion. The body bulks up very rapidly, putting on weight overnight . Damaged or missing bacteria cause the metabolism to gorge on food more than normal. And to extract a higher proportion of nutrients, directly accelerating the body’s over-development.

Fatter and fatter

See what happens with kids aged two, put on antibiotics. By the time they get to five they’re already overweight, well on their way to increasingly chubby childhood.

It’s this quality that has revolutionised the food industry, enabling factory farms to pump out THREE times the world’s meat and plant crop output in little more than 20 years.

Such weight gain doesn’t happen to everybody.

But it’s already a fact of life – and a key reason why two-thirds of adults are already overweight or obese.  Not just from medical treatments – frighteningly made worse by one third of all prescribed antibiotics being completely unnecessary – but from daily exposure through our FOOD.

You see, spectacular growth boosting in food production has exploded antibiotics use all over the world. Currently 240,000 tonnes annually and rocketing.

That means that through direct dosing with feedstuffs – and even more through indirect absorption of manure used to fertilise, enriching all plant life and those same feedstuffs – all of us receive a small daily intake of antibiotics with every meal we eat. Exactly the way to make us bulk up fast.

Fatter and sicker

Animals and plants quickly get eaten, so their life expectancy is not very high – a few years at most. But we go on for decades, getting steadily fatter, deeper into obesity. More prone to illnesses that obesity brings – diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many others. All long goodbyes.

Not the same as chopping off a leg – but equally unpleasant. And a lot more life-threatening.

Nor is it just getting fat that antibiotics threaten us with.

Damaged or missing bacteria deny us any immunity to serious illness we may have inherited from our parents. Our kids are denied them for the same reason, they’re no longer there to be passed on.

Worse, our bodies start reacting to conditions that aren’t there. Misreading normal signals as hostile, confusing everyday reality with phantom attacks against us.

Which is how, out of nowhere, we develop allergies. Hay fever, eczema or asthma. Or how about urticaria, anaphylactic shock or gluten reactions? People never had them 20 years ago –not in the snowballing number we have now.

Superbugs rule

And then of course – really chopping off our own leg – our undisciplined and wild overuse of antibiotics has triggered the development of superbugs.

Our cure-all miracle drugs are starting not to work any more because bacteria have become immune to them. Antimicrobial resistance.

Yes, well – we wanted to kill off bacteria, But nobody thought we were chopping off bits of ourselves.

So now we sit with life-savers that don’t work, medical surgery brought to a standstill, and all of us steadily getting fatter.

Not a survivable future

Though count on it, the bacteria that brought us down will still be around, long after we’re gone.

Oh yeah, and that antibiotic resistance superbug thing?

Wait till that runs riot across factory farms. Flash pandemics among livestock. No more food for most of us. Death by hunger is not a nice way to go – and we’re probably already too late to stop it.

Chopping off a leg, huh? Looks like we’ve already done it.

Time to reverse this antibiotics debacle now, to get off the train and find alternatives. Other solutions like bacteriophages – something, anything.

Either that, chop, chop – or we’re limping towards a future that doesn’t exist.

Picture Copyright: vatikaki / 123RF Stock Photo