Tag Archives: antimicrobial resistance

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.

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Why we’re all going to die from antibiotics – unless a young Malaysian PhD student succeeds first

Girl in cemetery
Let’s hope antibiotics are NOT in our future

OK, most of us know that antibiotics kill bacteria.

Except it’s a shattering revelation to most of us that We are 90% bacteria. Only 10% of our bodies are human.

Yeah, life-saving antibiotics fight infection and make us well again.

But there’s always collateral damage. We never quite return to 100% ourselves again afterwards. Our personal bacteria are depleted or damaged.

All thanks to antibiotics.

A killer legacy

Miracle drugs they certainly have been, until now. But evidence is mounting that our unswerving faith in them may be misplaced. That they are in fact about the most deadly threat we face today.

Three major challenges they throw at us, all of them deadly:

  • Superbugs. Bacteria can and do find ways to resist antibiotics. They become immune, untreatable – life-threatening superbugs. The threat is so serious that the UN convened their first ever general assembly to address the issue only last week. Superbugs are expected to kill 10 million of us by 2050.
  • Obesity. We’re fat and getting fatter – two thirds of us are already overweight or obese.  Again, thanks to antibiotics. A staggering 240,000 tonnes are fed to livestock every year to accelerate growth and weight gain. Their manure fertilises crops, so that our entire food chain is laced with the most phenomenal growth booster ever. Our food bulks us up, we become obese, triggering diabetes, heart disease and cancer – together killing 500 million of us by 2050.
  • Famine. Farmers won’t stop feeding animals their biggest ever money-maker. Which means antibiotics on farms will nearly double in the next 15 years.  HALF A MILLION TONNES A YEAR gives bacteria plenty of practice to become superbugs. Which means widespread disease is inevitable – a collapse of the food supply to non-antibiotic levels. 6 billion of us can expect to starve to death.

More than two thirds of the world’s population gone. All thanks to antibiotics – the invincible superbugs they create, and the ballooning bodies they force on us that our systems cannot withstand.

Doom and gloom worldwide

An effective alternative

Except in a research lab at the University of Melbourne – where 25-year old PhD student Shu Lam from Batu Pahat in the state of Johor, Malaysia, is working on a game-changer.  Star-shaped molecules of peptide polymers that destroy superbugs WITHOUT antibiotics.

The star-shaped polymers rip bacteria walls apart WITHOUT harming the body. Destroying them in much the same way as oxygen atoms do outside the body – annihilating harmful germs in living spaces.

Shu Lam’s work is still in its infancy, but already the results are impressive. Effective against six strains of drug-resistant bacteria in the lab, and on one superbug in live mice.

Bacteriophages

Her work parallels the largely forgotten efforts of others looking for alternatives to antibiotics – particularly the use of bacteriophages.

Using a germ to catch a germ, phages are tightly targeted viruses that attack bacteria by injecting DNA and fragmenting their cells.

The practice of deploying viruses to kill bacteria became widely used by the Soviet Union during the Cold War – a practical alternative around embargoed Western antibiotics.

Meanwhile the rest of the world is still at committee stage, endlessly debating antimicrobial resistance while the rest of us fatten up daily.

Time to realise that antibiotics are not all they’re cracked up to be. Life-savers in an emergency, but killers long term.

Let’s hope the penny drops soon.

Two thirds of us could be dead by the time the gurus make a decision.

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Five reasons why antibiotics are suicide

Doctors eyes
Yes, we know antibiotics are life-savers, but they work by killing

Doctors already know antibiotics are killers.

That’s what antibiotics do, they kill bacteria. Hopefully whichever strain it is that’s making you ill.

But inevitably they kill other bacteria as well. The good bacteria unluckily alongside. Antibiotics don’t know how to tell the difference.

Working with killers

So be aware, when your doctor prescribes antibiotics, she knows she’s prescribing a killer.

A pretty momentous decision when you realise that our bodies are more bacteria than human. We might think we’re in charge, but it’s the 90% bacteria colonised inside us that call the shots.

Which means that clobbering a few million bacteria unintentionally might be more hazardous than it seems. Collateral damage with sometimes serious consequences. Suicide option 1.

Gut bacteria usually take the hit, so that’s where the trouble starts. How many of us haven’t complained of nausea or diarrhoea while taking antibiotics?

Sometimes it’s worse than that – and unexpected. Torn Achilles tendon (levaquin), mood instability (fluoroquinolone derivatives), bruising and bleeding (augmentin) or eczema, wheezing, and asthma in children under two (all types).

Not good, when you remember that gut bacteria are there to process digestion, create proteins, regulate the immune system and many other functions.

Gut damage

Then there’s the damage you can’t see, but there’s plenty of evidence.

Antibiotics somehow suppress the control that tells us when to stop eating (leptin hormone). Even more critical, they cause the digestion bacteria to extract more nutrients from food than they should. Energy is over-absorbed instead of passing as waste, so the body stores it as fat.

The slippery slope to obesity. Suicide option 2.

Yes, the gut recovers from an antibiotic hit – likened by some researchers to releasing a hydrogen bomb. But it never comes back 100% to the way it was.

Some bacteria types can regenerate. Others, the rarer kind, might disappear altogether – and whatever their function was, is lost. Which seems to be what happens with putting on weight. Obese people find it next to impossible to get the weight off – their stomachs are jammed at full throttle.

Boosted weight gain

Which explains why antibiotics are used as growth boosters in agriculture. In quantities that boggle the mind. 240,000 tonnes a year currently and set to rise nearly 70% in the next 15 years.

The growth boosting and weight gain is truly phenomenal. From egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks – or from new-born calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years. All achieved by low sub-therapeutic doses added regularly to animal feed.

Which means we get the same low dose of growth boosters as well. We eat them, we ingest the antibiotics in their systems – even though antibiotic additives are withdrawn from feed by law for a set period before going to market.

They’re still laced with them because their bodies work the same way ours do. Remember how antibiotics make our stomachs over-absorb nutrients? Well most livestock animals only absorb around 20% of the food value they chew.

The rest is excreted as manure – to enrich the soil and be taken up by plants. To leach down into the water table too, out into our rivers and into our water supply. And folded back to the animals in the grass they graze, or the soy, maize or whatever in their feed.

In everything we eat

Which also means everything we eat or drink is laced with antibiotics too – meat or veg. Some of them added to boost plant growth and control blight – but most ingested directly or indirectly from the fertile soil.

Waiting for us to come along and innocently nosh it, thinking that a vegetarian diet will save us from the perils of eating meat.

Which brings us back to obesity – if not already triggered by medicine, then activated drip-drip, by the daily intake with every meal. And it’s happening too.

Look around. Already two thirds of UK adults are overweight or obese – and a third of children. The fat epidemic is upon us – quite independently of pizzas, burgers and sugary drinks. Keep up there, Jamie – this is important.

And what does obesity bring? A long, slow decline as the body subsides into complications – asthma, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer. A one-way ticket to long term misery. Suicide option 3.

Doctors recognise the epidemic – a time-bomb set to swamp the NHS as us fatties deteriorate into long-term repeat patients. They’ve got their hands full with a more immediate crisis though – antimicrobial resistance.

Rise of the superbugs

The miracle live-savers we trust antibiotics are, are fast becoming useless as bacteria adapt and become immune – turning into superbugs. Right now, today, there’s hardly a drug in the cupboard that bacteria haven’t found a way to resist.

MRSA, acinetobacter baumannii, CRKP, e.coli, ESBL, NDM-1, pseudomonas aeruginosa, streptococcus are all bugs that have learnt – and create genes that teach other bugs how survive too. Suicide option 4.

Which means, when you come down to it, that all antibiotics are only temporary. They might last two years, they might last ten. But sooner or later, bacteria will learn how to survive whatever we throw at them – and we’ll go back to being vulnerable.

Because you can’t beat bacteria. Don’t forget, we’re 90% bacteria ourselves. And they’re the most successful life form the world has ever seen – learning to survive for billions and billions of years – among the very first living things.

So the big thing that doctors are worried about is when ALL antibiotics fail altogether. Because then modern medicine falls apart. No more heart transplants, hip replacements or caesarean births – we’re back to the Dark Ages, our failsafe is gone.

The day when that happens is hurtling towards us too. With animals gulping down 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics a year, bacteria are getting plenty of opportunity to try, try, try until they succeed at finding a way to survive them. Superbugs are on the rise.

So ban antibiotics

Big pressure is mounting, among doctors and health gurus, to have antibiotics banned from agriculture altogether. Fat hope of that – quite literally.

Thanks to antibiotic growth boosters, world population now is THREE times the size it was since they were first introduced. So is food production – off the same-sized planet. Banning them would cut food production, triggering worldwide famine and two thirds of us would die from starvation. Suicide option 5.

Just possibly though, bacteria will do the job for us.

Antimicrobial resistance doesn’t only sick superbugs on humans. It sicks them on animals too. Our miracle drugs will stop working on them, same as us. So they will die anyway. And world famine will happen just the same.

Because you can’t beat bacteria, it’s like beating ourselves. We’re 90% bacteria anyway, so even trying it is suicide. A demonstration that if we can’t do things naturally, we will get zapped.

There’s too many of us anyway, so this is Nature correcting a speed wobble. Chop the numbers, we read you – and we got the email.

We’ve had the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, the super-volcano of Yellowstone, the Black Death, two World Wars, the global flu of 1918 – now it’s time for suicide.

Stay healthy!

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Antibiotics are becoming like terrorists with nukes – AMR is just a sideshow

Sniper
Know your enemy! Antibiotics are set to kill more of us than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined

We don’t see terrorists coming. We don’t see the dangers of antibiotics either – both of them set to nuke us when we least expect it.

A terrorist bomb might take out a city the size of Greater Manchester – thousands dead, hundreds of thousands more facing years of radiation sickness – like being dead before it actually happens.

Antibiotics are no prettier.

An invisible war

Because to the trillions and trillions of beneficial bacteria in our own gut, nukes are exactly what antibiotics are. Evil invaders who only want to destroy. Mass killers.

Imagine Greater Manchester, millions of times over. That’s what life is like down there in our insides, more bacteria than there are human cells. Reality is, we’re a harmonious, co-existing  miracle that’s 90% germs.

Now comes an oral dose of antibiotics – amoxicillin, say – prescribed for some troubling ailment, often unnecessarily. Trillions and trillions of microscopic but benevolent bacteria – versus 250 mg of devastating nuclear destruction.

A massive chunk of your gut, nuked to nothing.

You’re right. The medicine might clobber whatever the problem is – but the body will never return to exactly the way it was. Too many innocent bystanders caught in the fallout. Billions killed, vital diversity reduced. The system is not as strong as the way it was, no longer as all-round resilient.

Resistance movement

But there are survivors. Maybe a bit damaged, or not fully functioning – but wise to what antibiotics are capable of, and aware of what they need to do to escape. Next time, even more will endure. And even more after that.

Until the day comes that an antibiotic hits the gut, and our bacteria are impervious. Even to nukes.

Nothing happens.

Our bacteria have learned how to resist the drugs – even shared their survival skills with others, so all of them are immune. Antimicrobial resistance it’s called – AMR. Wish we could have the same resistance to terrorists.

Except big-scale calamities are not usually the way terrorists work, are they? 9/11 doesn’t happen every day.

More effective – and more insidious – are the little attacks that do. Happen every day, that is. Always there, never letting up, determined to bring us down, little by little. Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan theatre, Brussels airport.

The real killers

Exactly like antibiotics do.

Better believe it.

Because without our even thinking about it, we’re swallowing down antibiotics into our gut little by little with every meal.

In the milk with our corn flakes. In the oats for our porridge. In our bacon and eggs. In the chicken for our sandwich, and the lettuce with it. In the bangers and mash for tea, including in the baked beans.

Little hand grenades in our gut, or letting loose with a machine pistol. Nothing serious, but always damage. Little bits of us that suddenly aren’t working any more.

How is this possible?

We-he-hell.

Growth promoters

It all started back in 1946, when a researcher named Moore discovered the growth stimulation of antibiotics fed to chicks. A colleague named Jukes reached the same conclusion in 1952 – feed small amounts of antibiotics to livestock every day, and they bulk up like crazy.

Money, money, money. Fat, fatter, fattest.

And did we mention money?

Today, 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics are pumped into farm livestock every year.  Bigger, better, fatter than ever – and more of them. Enabling our own human world population to explode from 2½ billion in the 1950s, to 7½ billion now.

And of course, all these animals poo – excreting, would you believe, more than 75% of the nutrients they consume – including the antibiotics. “In 2002, 185 million swine sold in the US generated about 280 million tons of fresh manure; in 2006, chicken produced even more (460 million tons), while, in 2007, beef cattle produced 3.6 million tons of manure.”

Manure, huh?

Knee-deep in trouble

Used as fertiliser for all kinds of agricultural crops – fruit, veg, cereals, grains. And of course feedstuffs for livestock – so that farm animals re-eat the same antibiotics they ate before, with the same effect.

They keep getting fatter and fatter, growing faster and faster – and making more and more money.

Must be tough, being an antibiotics manufacturing company. 240,000 tonnes of stuff turned out by machine ka-chunk-ka-chunk, no effort, no investment – just keep rolling and take the money. No need to invest in new research, the goldmine is already working overtime.

Need proof? Just check your own waistline.

Bigger than it was, huh? You didn’t always wear a Size 16.

But look around, it’s not just you – this is a world-wide epidemic. Two-thirds of us are already way overweight or positively obese. All thanks to the same trigger that makes farm animals fat too – antibiotics.

Whatever food we ingest, antibiotics are in there somewhere. Directly in the food, or absorbed from manure-enriched soil, or leached through into our river systems so even the water we drink is spiked. Antibiotics pollution.

Too big for our own good

Result: obesity is a condition we’re all of us beginning to share – and no way is that healthy.

In fact it’s deadly.

Check the numbers and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – which means illnesses that cannot be treated by antibiotics – kills about 50,000 of us a year.

But obesity works like the terrorist’s nuclear bomb – wide-reaching, slow-acting, with extreme pain and suffering. The equivalent of radiation sickness – attacking our bodies in the form of diabetes, heart disease, cancer or worse – killing 30 million of us or more every year, and climbing all the time.

Yup – long-term, obesity is going to get most of us. Looking forward to 20 years of medicines, time off in bed, hospital visits, and feeling more and more unwell – more pressure on the NHS than any of us could ever imagine.

Two-thirds of adults – world-wide that’s around 3 billion people.  Which kinda makes deaths from AMR look like chicken-feed.

Worse than any terrorist, nuke or no nuke. Worse than any threat we’ve ever faced before – including plagues and world wars.

Is there a solution?

Stop, stop, stop

Short term, eat only organic or ocean fresh – and drink only rainwater.

Long term, STOP USING ANTIBIOTICS and find a replacement.

Anything less and we might as well nuke ourselves.

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Antibiotics Armageddon. Are we too late for Plan B?

Survivor
Clean or else – we CAN survive germs if we learn to avoid them

Wait a minute, did we ever have a Plan B?

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.

Yeah, but…

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.

Ultimate survivors

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.

Seriously?

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.

Living hell

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.

Antibiotic damage

But hold on. Antibiotic resistance is only part of the problem.

Antibiotic damage is another.

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.

Fighting back

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.

But a helluva lot better than nothing.

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Worried what to do about antimicrobial resistance? Start at your supermarket

Trolley of pills
We’re part of the problem — everything we eat already has antibiotics in it

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.

Industrial abuse

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.

Self-prescribing amateurs

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.

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Why soap and water will soon be saving your life

Teddy in washer
So simple – soap and water is a lot easier than going to the Doc all the time

Count on it, in the very near future, your life will depend on soap and water.

They will be the only thing between you and certain death.

Good old lifesavers

So how you use them  – or whether you use them at all – is already a lot more critical than you might ever imagine.

Because in your lifetime – and sooner rather than later – our wonder-drug antibiotics will no longer work. Bacterial superbugs will have mutated to become totally resistant to them.

Which means – going back to the dark ages before penicillin was discovered – that no longer will we be protected from our own adventurousness, recklessness, clumsiness, or foolhardiness.

Our new killers

Overnight, almost everything and anything could be the death of us.

  • 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.

And here’s why. Right now:

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.

Why?

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.

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Antibiotics in food: are major investors about to take a bath?

Serious business
Nobody has successfully sued for obesity yet – but antibiotics in food are a definite cause

Now the headlines start – ANTIBIOTICS IN FOOD.

Not panicky in the tabloids, but concerned in the financial pages. Not a lifestyle thing but a possible investment issue. Not a problem yet – but going to be.

Because for the first time, the City are taking note. Are they threatened? Are they about to take a bath?

Food safety in jeopardy

The short answer is, you bet. As soon as the penny drops.

As soon as the focus shifts from antimicrobial resistance and the rise of superbugs – to the much bigger problem of worldwide obesity and health degeneration – triggering a long-term epidemic of deaths from diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

A total train smash for the food industry.

Right now the alarm is that antibiotics used in farming are reaching through to the human food chain, increasing the risk of ingesting superbug bacteria – harmful pathogens that cannot be treated by antibiotics. Such alarm is justified – 25,000 people die in Europe each year from an antibiotic-resistant infection.

But the real issue is not even on the radar. Not with government, not with health organisations, not with food authorities or control bodies, nobody. A train smash is coming and you read it here first.

Because, yes, antibiotics are the crunch issue – but not from superbug resistance.

The body fatteners

The real crisis is the effect of antibiotics as super performance GROWTH PROMOTERS on the human body. The antibiotics in our food is making us obese – a problem 20 times more deadly than antimicrobial resistance. 400,000 deaths each year in the EU are directly linked to excess weight.

Closer to home, obesity is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths each year (6% of all deaths in the UK).  All driven by antibiotics.

Government won’t admit it of course. Nor the health experts, nor the food industry.

They’re all in denial.

Yet right there, in a review commissioned directly by the Prime MinisterAntimicrobials in Agriculture and the Environment – the presence of large quantities of antibiotics excreted by animals in manure and fertiliser used for crop and feedstuff production is acknowledged – alongside recognition that antibiotics are used widely as growth promoters.

Therefore they know, all the way to the top – that antibiotics are present in everything we eat. Picked up with nutrients in soil enriched with antibiotic-laden manure, the common denominator to high intensity farming for both produce and livestock. Meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, grain crops – all are boosted by “natural” manure.

Fatness is a killer

Just like farm animals, our growth is promoted too, in exactly the same way – the daily drip, drip, drip of sub-therapeutic antibiotics. Just like farm animals, we are getting fat – to the point that it is now a national calamity. More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.

We eat too much without knowing why – antibiotics have glitched our systems so we can’t stop eating. Which means more than 2 in 3 adults are already a candidate for diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other health risks associated with obesity – with staggering implications for the food industry.

  • The number of people living with diabetes in the UK has tipped over the 4 million mark.
  • Deaths from cancer in the UK in 2012 totalled 161,823.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death both in the UK and worldwide -responsible for more than 73,000 deaths in the UK each year.

Antibiotics are even in our water too. In one study, run-off in the Thames from manure-enriched soil was found to contain trimethoprim, oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, cefotaxime, doxycycline, sulfamethoxazole, erythromycin, clarithromycin, ofloxacin and norfloxacin.

So face it, in the not too distant future, you’re going to get fat too – if you’re not already.

Obesity lawsuits

Surprisingly though, as far as we know, nobody has ever successfully taken legal action because their food made them fat – yet.  But food companies are right to look at get-out options. With spiralling death rates, what food brand wants ANY kind of numbers on their corporate conscience?

Because antibiotics don’t just make you fat. They actually work by killing bacteria. And as we are only now starting to discover, the body is host to over 100 trillion bacteria in the gut alone – inextricably entwined with the digestion of food, production of proteins and regulation of the immune system. We meddle with these at our peril.

So it’s not just obesity. Any kind of damage to these bacteria can trigger other weaknesses or deficiencies, most obvious of which is allergies – the body chasing phantom ailments to its own detriment.

So yeah, count on it. Sooner or later, there’s going to be a stampede. Get rid of antibiotics – maybe get out of food altogether – into something safe, like knitting.

Because yes, antibiotics are there in our food – and not going away any time soon.

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AMR snatches gold from antibiotics – but good old silver always takes silver

Silver cup winner
Second best protection is better than no protection at all

Silver, huh?

Second-best at best. Not even close to antibiotics.

Yeah, but antibiotics are busy going phut.

Too much use, too many expectations, too many chances at getting away with things.

Superbugs are winning

Ask your Doc – AMR – antimicrobial resistance – is the big headache right now. You get injured or seriously ill, what the hell do medics do now?

Because the cupboard is bare – not from running out – from over-use, serious over-use – crikey Moses, agriculture alone round the world uses 65,000 tonnes of the stuff every year.

Mind you, the medical sector is not much better – around a quarter of all antibiotic prescriptions are placebo-type overkill or just plain unnecessary.

No, no, the big problem is that these one-time miracle drugs are beginning not to work any more. The superbugs they’re meant to kill refuse to roll over, dead.

Too smart, see? Immune. Mutated and adapted every generation – which can happen every few minutes – able to resist whatever we throw at them.

Ho, hum, did you feel a breeze just then?

End of the line?

Yeah, an empty cupboard. And no new antibiotics discovered since 1987. No profit in it with a one-off course of three tablets a day for a week. How about one a day, every day for life? THAT’S more like it!

OK, but we’re not dead yet. Antibiotics are still saving lives, still enabling medical experts to do amazing things – brain surgery, organ transplants, joint replacements – right down to C-sections births which are now 1 in 4.

The writing is on the wall though. And the day is fast arriving when our mind-blowing silver bullets run out of fizz. In fact the all-resistant bug – protected by the gene mcr-1 – is already here.

Time to call for back-up. Second best maybe, but better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick.

Ancient reinforcements

Say hello to silver, an old friend from way back. 400 BC to be exact – and even then it was old hat – when Hippocrates (he of the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath) taught how to use it for healing wounds and controlling disease.

You’re right, silver is not in the same class as modern antibiotics. But it does have antibiotic qualities of its own.

Prolonged exposure to silver seems to clobber most pathogens eventually – slow perhaps, but effective. Which is why the rich would drink from silver cups and eat with silver cutlery. And why wounded soldiers 100 years ago had their sutures sewn with silver thread to reduce infection.

Their dressings were silver too – local application seemed to work better than internal dosing. And still today, you can get waterproof Elastoplast with antiseptic silver in the would pad.

There is even the possibility that silver could boost the performance of our sagging antibiotics – helping to overcome AMR and get some of their mojo back. Tests already show improvements up to 1,000 times better germ-killing power.

Better still, silver is not just antibacterial, it’s antifungal and antiviral as well.  And winners though they still are, antibiotics have never been able to take down viruses.

Thank you, No 2

Second best, yes. But definitely better than nothing.

Put that together with a new awareness of hygiene – necessity will force us to keep ourselves cleaner as the superbugs take over – and our medical future is not so desperate after all.

Given time, it could even get better. Researchers have found that silver interrupts a bacteria cell’s ability to form chemical bonds it needs for survival.

Not unlike what hydrogen peroxide does when misted up in a roomful of pathogens by a Hypersteriliser.

Hmm, no viruses, no bacteria – what’s not to like?

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Once ALL antibiotics go phut, what do we do?

Helpless doctor2
When the drugs don’t work and your system is down, better be seriously careful
with your hygiene

You take the pill, you swallow, it does absolutely nothing.

The Doc changes your meds, and gives you a shot.

Still nothing.

You’re going downhill fast and this bogey is gonna get you.

Miracle drugs failure

Because when antibiotics don’t work – and they’re beginning not to Big Time – there’s not a lot medicine is able to do.

Why DON’T they work?

Shoulda listened to the heavies when they warned us years ago.

Overuse of antibiotics has triggered an unstoppable wave of antimicrobial resistance – superbugs immune to whatever we throw at them. Already there are some that are resistant to ALL antibiotics. Soon that will be the norm. The cupboard is bare. No more miracle drugs to save us from expiry

As Sir Liam Donaldson – England’s Chief Medical Officer before our charismatic Dame Sally Davies – said back in March 2009, “Every antibiotic expected by a patient, every unnecessary prescription written by a doctor, every uncompleted course of antibiotics, and every inappropriate or unnecessary use in animals or agriculture is potentially signing a death warrant for a future patient.”

In other words STOP USING ANTIBIOTICS.

Not good if you’re already on the slippery slope.

But sound advice considering the damage that antibiotics have done.

Double-edged swords

Damage? Aren’t they supposed to be life-savers?

Once upon a time, yes. But that show left town.

You see, antibiotics work by killing bacteria. Which means round about now they’ve been killing bacteria inside our bodies for sixty-five years.

Not wrong, but oops!

We may not know it, but down in our gut, our bodies are home to several hundred trillion bacteria. They outnumber our human cells by more than 10:1 – and as we’re starting to learn more and more, they’re absolutely essential for our survival.

Because it seems they’re not just along for the ride, they do important things that affect our whole bodies. Like handle digestion, produce proteins, regulate our immune system – even shift our emotions and define our habits. And every single one of us has a unique combination of bacteria, as individual as fingerprints.

Plus this microbiota, as researchers call it, is not just any old bunch of bacteria. To keep us healthy it has as wide a diversity as possible – biological experience and instructions for protecting the body, keeping it in tune, and repelling invaders.

Yeah, so?

At war with our gut

For sixty-five years we’ve been throwing antibiotics at it – every time an atom bomb of killing in our gastrointestinal tract. Bad bacteria destroyed, yes – and a whole lot of beneficial ones as well.

Amazingly, our microbiota usually manages to recover. A bit wobbly maybe, to be expected with several million vital bits knocked out. Which kinda explains why it never QUITE gets back to normal.

Bad news for our kids, because they can only go with what we pass on to them. Assaulted by antibiotics on prescription maybe ten times by the time we’re sixteen.

And ALSO drip, drip every single day from the residual antibiotics we ingest from food – more and more and more – because antibiotics are a major growth promoter for livestock and plant crops, so farmers have used them on an industrial scale for the last sixty-five years.

Uh huh.

Which goes to explain why our bodies’ biodiversity is 30 per cent lower than it was 50 years ago. 30% less able to do all the things they used to be able to do, 30% less resilient, 30% more prone to infections and diseases.

Not helped at all by our lazy couch-potato lifestyle, our sugar-laden diet of processed convenience foods, or the fat we put on thanks to antibiotics bulking us up like pigs ready for market.

Yeah, so we get ill with something, bad enough to need an antibiotic – and the things don’t work. Plus our resistance is down 30% from where it should be. What the heck do we do now?

In the poo

Strangely enough, being in the crapper is one answer.

We’re in trouble because our microbiotas are under-powered, right? No miracle drugs to rescue us, and our internal bacteria are under fire.

OK, so first, send in reinforcements – healthy bacteria from someone who is perfectly hale and hearty. Backup and restore in the shape of a poo pill or poo transfer. Because believe it or not, FMT or faecal microbiota transplants are fast becoming an effective way to restore the gut imbalances that make us ill.

In the clear

Next, avoid getting ill in the first place. Steer clear of germs and get rid of them when they threaten.

Which means back to soap and water – washing our hands before and after every activity that could cause trouble – always before food, and always after the loo.

And keeping germs out of our indoor living space too – where we work, where we eat and sleep, where we get together. All easily neutralised with a Hypersteriliser – by a hydrogen peroxide mist that oxidises all viruses and bacteria to nothing on every surface and throughout the air – safe, sterile and secure.

Antibiotics?

Yeah, still a problem for major surgery where infection control is vital.

But for everyday living – as long as we’re careful, we don’t need them.