Coronavirus: our massive price tag for bingeing antibiotics

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COVID-19 feels like the end of the world. But it doesn’t have to be.

Huh? Coronavirus and antibiotics? There’s no connection, right? Antibiotics have no effect on any kind of virus.

Absolutely right, they don’t. But how about the other way round?

Like, how come coronavirus – by which of course, we mean the COVID-19 strain currently ravaging the world – was able to happen in the first place?

A disaster waiting to happen

Forget about its origins, the way the world was going it was bound to happen anyway, sooner or later. It just needed an opportunity – then bingo! a raging pandemic. All thanks to our accelerating binge of antibiotics over the last fifty years.

OK, OK, it wasn’t antibiotics that triggered COVID-19 immediately. As David Attenborough quite rightly points out, it’s mainly because there’s too many of us human beings for the Earth to sustain – 7.8 billion right now, rocketing to a thundering 10 billion by 2056.

And because of those numbers, we’re facing a whole wodge of challenges – global warming, climate change, deforestation, vanishing animal and plant species, whole ecosystems being destroyed.

Plus now the latest disaster – coronavirus COVID-19.

And every single one of them directly attributable to antibiotics.

Killer life-savers make us fat

Wha…? Antibiotics save lives, right? They’re the backbone of modern medicine. How come?

Well back around 1950, when antibiotics started taking off as the medical miracle of the century, the world’s population was just 2½ billion. Back then, that was around the biggest number possible. The maximum amount of land was producing the maximum amount of food – there was simply no capacity to produce any more.

Until that is, farmers lucked on to using antibiotics as growth boosters. Around the beginning of the 50s, researchers discovered that feeding these life-saving medicines to animals caused them to grow bigger, faster. Spectacularly faster. A piglet weighing 3 pounds at birth for instance, could be a full 270 pounds and market ready in just six months.

And not just animals, humans too. “In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.” (New York Times, 8th March 2014).

Of course faster growth meant quicker money – and farmers were quick to latch on. Plus antibiotics boosted growth in PLANTS too, year on year pushing production capacity through the roof.

Which is why today, world consumption of antibiotics is 240,000 TONNES a year. Of which by far the bulk is used in agriculture – essential to producing the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion sheep and 1 billion pigs that currently feed us.

Our overloaded planet – too many people

And all that food is essential to supporting the 7½ billion people that we have become since the 1950s. THREE TIMES the number that we were more than fifty years ago. Yet the world hasn’t got any bigger. Everything is produced off exactly the same land area as it was back then. It’s growth boosting on an industrial level – and antibiotics that made it possible.

Except that now, there’s too many of us. The Earth can’t sustain us all unless something gives. Another global war perhaps, or an asteroid smashing into us. Or a world-wide plague like the original Black Death to bring our numbers down.

Yeah, right. So against our densely populated cities with millions living in flats and tower blocks, people almost on top of each other, Nature chose COVID-19. Perfect

Bad, yes. And about to get worse as the virus really gets going. Think the figures in Europe and the US are bad? Wait for the untouched areas of Asia and Africa. Huge populations without the medical support of more developed countries, already challenged by AIDS, poverty and political instability. And of course, the many refugee camps.

Billions and billions and billions of people. None of whom could be on this Earth without the growth boosting sorcery of antibiotics. That’s one heck of a price tag.

And not the only one either.

Second pandemic

Antibiotics have already set ANOTHER pandemic on the go. Except it’s one we can’t see because it’s in slow motion.

Obesity.

You see, it’s not just animals that antibiotics fatten up fast. It’s humans too. But there’s a difference. That poor little pig we met earlier only lives for six months, then it gets eaten. Humans of course, go on for much longer. And because we live longer, we keep getting fatter and fatter.

That’s inevitable because there’s antibiotics in everything we eat. They’re in the animals that provide us meat, in the manure they make that fertilises food crops, in the ground water that seeps into our rivers, even in the water that comes out of our taps. So yes, we’re getting fatter and already two thirds of adults are regarded as clinically obese.

And obesity is a LONG term condition. It lasts a life-time. Bringing with it other conditions as it challenges the body more and more with the strain of carrying extra weight. Asthma, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and cancer are just some of effects we can look forward to – set to claim altogether 30 million of us, half the population of UK.

Third pandemic

There’s yet another pandemic looming too. Not a medical one, but a pandemic none the less. Brought on by the coronavirus itself already running amok the world over. By its effect on the economies of every country – the businesses shut down, the jobs lost, the huge cost of containing COVID-19 and paying out to compensate for it.

Poverty.

And the malnutrition that goes with it. The inevitable illness and death. More billions still.

Is it worth it?

From the Earth’s point of view, probably yes. If 5 billion of us are wiped out, there’s a chance it can return to normal. Everything back in the balance and David Attenborough will be happy.

From our point of view, who wants to die?

Not the end of the world

Well, we’re not dead yet. And there’s a good chance most of us will survive, despite COVID-19’s severity. It’s not the Black Death after all, we can get through this.

At which point we should dump antibiotics before they really are the death of us. Stop using them for everything and like the Earth, let our bodies return to normal.

No more miracle drugs?

Well here’s another surprise. Because when antibiotics stop working – and already so many of them are neutralised by antibiotic resistance – the one resource we can turn to that might do the job is viruses.

Specifically bacteriophages that eat harmful bacteria and even other viruses to return us back to health again.

You read that right, viruses.

Viruses to kill germs and make people healthy – our new medical miracles.

Oh yes, and just remember you read about it here first, on Back Off, Bacteria. Before it goes viral.

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Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.