Antibiotics: we got them wrong like Fleming said – and now we’ve totally blown it

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All this worrying with antibiotics resistance neglects the even bigger killer of obesity

Miracle lifesavers, antibiotics. But like Fleming predicted back in the 50s, a double-edged sword.

Because yes, antibiotics did what that they said on the tin – kill bacteria. Except they bounced back if you didn’t kill enough of them.

A bit like bombing an ants’ nest, which all the pest control guys can tell you about. Make sure you get ALL the ants – because if there’s any survivors, they’ll be back.

Not only that, they’ll be uglier and tougher – better able to withstand the next bomb you chuck them. Tougher resistance, a new strength to breed into all future generations.

Exactly like bacteria – which develop antimicrobial resistance if not clobbered hard enough. Mutating to a new superbug that antibiotics can’t kill.

And because bacteria can interact with each other, passing on their immunity to other bacteria types. Antibiotic resistance out of nowhere, even though never exposed to them.

Wrong and wronger

All of which is now rubbished by new research just published in the British Medical Journal – that antibiotics should be used sparingly – until the patient is better and not necessarily until the fully prescribed course runs out.

Yeah, right.

Like swallowing only one paracetamol capsule for that thumping headache instead of two – so there’s more left when it’s needed. How does that work?

Frankly if there’s bacteria giving you grief and you’re at death’s door, common sense says keep going to make sure you get rid of all of them. No pussy-footing round with half-measures that let your symptoms recur.

Exactly like if you’re painting a floor, you buy enough to cover the whole thing – not just a small tin that does half of it.

Yeah, but – the research boffins are going to say. There’s no evidence to suggest that under-dosing  causes antibiotic resistance.

Sure guys, whatever.

Growth boosters

But there’s a MONUMENTAL stack of evidence that under-dosing DOES boost body growth. Fleming and his team came across that from the get-go. A phenomenon that farmers have been relying on for the last 50 years – to produce enough food to support the nearly THREE TIMES population explosion the world has had since.

OK, good – so there’s enough food. Achieved by making animals grow bigger, faster.

But now the tail’s wagging the dog.

Because the boffins haven’t twigged it yet, but it’s staring us in the face.

With antibiotics already being gobbled up by animals, that means there’s antibiotics in everything we eat. Not big doses, meant to kill bacteria. But little drip-drip doses, deliberately used to make bodies grow fatter.

In other words, ours. Because – surprise, surprise – we’re animals too.

So behold the “overfat” girls of the UK and the US – the fattest in the world.

Better include Australia, Canada and all of Western Europe too – it’s become an epidemic. Because fact: two thirds of British adults are already seriously overweight or obese – and so are one third of our kids.

Uh huh, the writing’s on the wall, so listen up BMJ readers  – antibiotics cause obesity.

Obesity epidemic

It starts with childhood, where the first antibiotics we get trigger infant obesity.  Followed up by steady antibiotics throughout adolescence, so that by the time a teenager reaches 20, they’ve been exposed to antibiotics at least SEVENTEEN TIMES.

And all the time we’re all getting drip-drip under-doses of antibiotics every day. In the meat we eat. In the vegetables grown with manure from the same animals, or in soil enriched from the same source. They’re even in our water supply, leached in through the soil to our streams and rivers.

Right now the medics are worried about antibiotic resistance and that 700,000 people will die.

But obesity leads to… Fleming would turn in his grave.

Take your pick from asthma, diabetes, limb amputation, heart disease or cancer – a long, slow death for 30 MILLION people – almost half the population of UK.

30 MILLION people – how wrong do you want to get?

And it’s not going to stop, because antibiotics are essential to sustain food production for the 7½ billion people that inhabit the planet today. Pull the plug, and food levels go back to the 1950s and 5 BILLION people will die.

Like we said, how wrong do you want to get?

Not short-term lifesavers, but long-term killers.

Fleming was right, we’d get antibiotic resistance.

Except that’s not the problem any more. It’s the obesity epidemic.

But instead of searching round for an ALTERNATIVE, like bacteriophages – all our top medics blame SUGAR and look the other way.

Any excuse to avoid reality, hey?