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

Doc with bugs
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?

Do our health authorities actually realise the deep manure that antibiotics put them in?

Surgical team
Oh, oh, the brown mire’s already hit the fan – and billions of us are going to need treatment

They already know we’re in trouble.

Everybody from England’s Chief Medical Officer on down is seriously worried about antibiotics.

“A ticking time-bomb threat that ranks with terrorism,” says Dr Dame Sally Davies.  “The drugs don’t work, so we’re back to wash our hands or die.”

Antimicrobial resistance – just for starters

Serious, yes, because she’s talking about antimicrobial resistance (AMR). One by one, savvy bacteria have developed immunity to our miracle life-savers. Modern medicine is at the brink of a new Dark Age. No more heart transplants, hip replacements, or even C-section births.

So doctors are scared, but not poop scared.

But they should be.

Because all of them – the government, Public Health England, the General Medical Council, the NHS, everybody –  they’re already in deep poo, and don’t even know it.

Sure AMR is serious. But alongside other concerns with antibiotics, it’s only the beginning.

The age of the fatties

Like obesity, for instance. The elephant in the room that doctors don’t want to acknowledge.  A runaway epidemic that already affects two thirds of British adults – and a third of British children.

Dame Sally puts that on a par with terrorism too – though it’s actually worse. Obesity that leads to diabetes, heart disease and cancer – around 30 million deaths and accelerating like crazy.

Yes, fuelled by sugary drinks, junk food and a couch potato lifestyle. But not triggered by them.

Our current slo-mo tsunami of accelerating obesity is from antibiotics in the FOOD we eat. Micro-doses in everything we put in our mouths – meat, vegetables, milk, water.

How come?

Down on the (factory) farm

Because micro-doses of antibiotics are exactly what farmers feed their animals to bulk them up and make them grow quicker. To obese-ify them.

They’re not supposed to, of course. Overuse of antibiotics by agriculture is a major cause of antibiotic resistance. And farmers use 240,000 tons of them worldwide every year.

Which is why antibiotic growth promoters are banned in the UK and EU – to prevent AMR from getting worse.

Fat hope.

And we can thank antibiotics for that too.

At the end of World War II there were only 2½ billion of us on this planet. Today we are 7½ billion. Antibiotics lowered the death rate so more of us could survive. No longer just the fittest – but also the weak, those rescued from disease and infection. Another 5 billion of us.

Which is why farmers NEED antibiotics. To produce enough food to sustain us in such numbers. Except the planet hasn’t got any bigger, there’s no new land they can use for farming. So the only way to go is industrial.

Enter the CAFO – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or factory farms. Thousands of animals, concentrated in every available space. So many of them on top of each other that antibiotics are essential for keeping them alive.

Antibiotics not as growth promoters, note – that’s illegal. Strictly therapeutic. Ultra necessary in the close and unsanitary slum conditions these poor animals have to live in.

Antibiotics everywhere

The effect is the same though. Antibiotics fed to animals every day in regular doses. All above board and within the law. With exactly the same obese-ifying effect.

So we eat them and we get fat too – from the residual antibiotics in their bodies?

You got it.

Although actually, farmers are supposed to withdraw antibiotics from feedstuff up to a month or more before slaughter. And keep strict records that they’ve done it. To ensure no antibiotics get into our own food chain.

Except they can’t always do that, can they? Their animals might die.

So there ARE actually maximum residue limits (MRLs) of antibiotics in our food – tiny doses of course. But it’s tiny doses that get fed to animals to obese-ify them in the first place.

All of which is before the REAL poo happens.

You see, it’s a fact of life that animals do not absorb everything they eat. Around 80% of it is excreted as waste. Which is how come manure has high nutritional value – it’s full of unused food.

S*** happens

So here we are – up to our necks in manure.

Because manure is used to grow crops of all kinds – including feedstuffs for livestock. So even though animals might not be dosed with antibiotics along with their food, they’re getting them anyway – from the grass, hay, maize, soya or whatever it is they’re being fed.

Better include fruit and vegetables too – and everything else.  The entire food spectrum we get in our local supermarket.

So that whatever we eat contains antibiotics. In exactly the micro-doses needed to obese-ify us like the animals – whose metabolisms are nearly the same as ours anyway.

Plus of course, manure leaches into the soil and into the water table – eventually into our streams and rivers. Swig a glass of water out of the Thames and it’s also full of antibiotics.

Oh, you want to get rid of the antibiotics before you eat them? Aside from any cooking you might do, you have to boil everything for at least 30 – 60 minutes. Though what your cauliflower cheese will taste like after an hour on the gas flat-out is anybody’s guess.

All of which means that our obesity epidemic is going to snowball – not go away. And that’s on top of the AMR superbug casualties we’re already taking. Millions of us face a long slow death thanks to illnesses brought on by antibiotics.

Dark Ages 2.0

OK, so suppose we get tough and ban antibiotics altogether?

Straight away we get Dame Sally’s Dark Ages. Forget to wash your hands and you could die from a paper cut.

But how are farmers going to sustain enough production to feed 7½ billion people without the power boost of antibiotics? No more factory farms, no more mass production.

Looks like medics will have to add malnutrition and starvation to the presenting symptoms they have to deal with.

Up to their necks in the brown stuff.

Us too.

So when Dame Sally says wash your hands, we’d all better listen. Our only defence with antibiotics gone.

Soap and water. More than at any time ever in our history, our lives depend on it.

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Our latest ABC of cancer: all set to wipe us out?

Gllomy doctor
The ABC of antibiotics, obesity and cancer: one killer of a headache

It’s not the ABC they teach at med school. But they should.

Dead basic and deadly, it’s something we should all learn.

Because it’s written all over our kids for our refusal to take it in.

Written all over us too – in Large, Extra Large and Extra-Extra Large.

Especially when you say it in the way our little mites might.

“A” is for antibiotics… which cause “B” is for ‘besity… which causes “C” is for cancer.

Our miracle medicines trigger one of the biggest killers we have ever faced.

Don’t believe it?

We’d all better – before it becomes the death of us.

Not what we want to hear

Start with A, antibiotics.

Not as the miracle life-savers we’ve relied on to rescue us again and again.

But as the world’s greatest and most successful growth boosters. Used in agriculture by the JCB-load – to produce livestock bigger, faster and accelerate plant growth. 240,000 tonnes of it, every year.

How successful?

Phenomenal.

Back in the 50s, there were 2½ billion of us on the planet – survivors of two World Wars and the biggest flu pandemic ever – which killed more than both wars together.

That was when farmers first started using antibiotics. As amazing growth promoters. Incredibly fast fatteners. Mind-blowing money-makers.

If ever there was a miracle, this was it. From egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From new-born calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years.

But now today, our numbers have swollen to a massive 7½ billion – THREE TIMES more of us.

Except the world itself of course, is still the same size it always was. Which means THREE TIMES more food is being produced off the same land as it was 60 years ago. A major miracle, yes – but nothing to do with saving lives.

All gut reflexes

The mechanics of it are simple.

Antibiotics in feedstuffs interfere with gut bacteria in livestock stomachs. They switch off the reflex that says when enough has been eaten. And more significantly, they cause the animal to absorb food more efficiently – extracting way more nutrients than the 20% they normally suck out.

Uh huh.

Which is triggering obesity, right? The ‘besity “B” in our alphabet.

The animal gets very big, very quickly – exactly as the farmer wants.

But unlike us, the obesity never gets any worse than achieving large size. Once they reach their selling weight, all the animals are trucked off to market.  Time to get eaten.

Their shorter existence experiences none of the miseries. The years of going downhill, always an effort to do anything, wheezing breath, sweats and flushes, faltering heartbeat, body organs failing under the strain – the unrelenting start of more serious conditions.

Asthma, diabetes, heart disease… cancer.

And there it is, the “C” in our simple ABC.

Cancer. The fate we can all look forward to – because we’re all of us exposed to antibiotics.

Our fate awaits…

Look around and you can see it. Already, two-thirds of adults are overweight or clinically obese.  So are one-third of children.

Some of it is triggered by antibiotics for medical conditions. Worried Mums and concerned doctors ensure most infants are probably prescribed them several times in early years.

All very responsible and properly motivated, except for one thing. Research is increasingly showing that children administered antibiotics before 2 years of age are often obese by the time they are 5.

So what about the rest of us?

Like it or not, we’re subjected to continuous antibiotic exposure with pretty well everything we eat.

Though meat on sale in UK is supposed to be antibiotic-free, this simply means that antibiotics have not been administered in feedstuffs over a specified period of withdrawal prior to selling.

Inevitably, however, there will be antibiotic residues contained within whatever animal feed is used – absorbed by plants from antibiotics-laden manure used as fertiliser, or extracted from the ground itself.

All animals, ourselves included, only absorb a proportion of the nutrients they eat. Most of them are excreted as waste, to become part of Nature’s on-going food chain for other living things.

A typical cow for instance, only absorbs 20% or so of the food it swallows. The resulting manure feeds all kinds of plant crops, enriches grazing grass, and leaches into the soil deep down into the water table.

As a result, sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics are everywhere throughout the food chain – occurring even in samples of water taken from the Thames. Whatever we eat or drink, we’re getting another dose.

Fatter and fatter

Which means we’re under exactly the same conditions as animals deliberately bulked up for market.  Unintentionally – and worse, without even being aware of it – we’re fattening ourselves up into obesity every single day, setting ourselves up for cancer or other major complications ten, twenty, or thirty years down the line.

Forget low exercise or pigging out on junk food – we were just as lazy and indulgent 60 years ago, before antibiotics. And as Lord McColl said recently in the House of Lords, we’re fat because we absorb too many calories, period.

So our real problem is digestive systems that absorb too much, glitched that way by regular doses of oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, sulfamethoxazole, erythromycin, clarithromycin or whatever else it is that we’re swallowing with every mouthful.

Time to face facts. We’re all going to get fat, it’s just a matter of when – depending on  what we eat, in what proportion, and at whatever level our metabolisms are.

Antibiotics equals ‘Besity equals Cancer. No wonder children’s cases are on the up.

Simple ABC, yet how many doctors know it – or have even thought of it?

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Antibiotics disaster: if AMR is life and death, obesity is Armageddon

Iceberg disaster

Who’s watch is it anyway?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – AMR is just the tip of the iceberg.

We’re charging along at full speed in the dark, but who is keeping a lookout?

Hot on the heels of all the political hoo-hah this week, Jim O’Neill, Chairman of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance is quite rightly sounding the alarm that AMR needs urgent action. Exactly per the recommendations of his Special AMR Review to the Prime Minister.

700,000 people will die this year from illnesses made untreatable by microbial resistance to antibiotics.

Growth boosters – from farm, to food, to you

But 40 times more will die from illnesses brought on by ballooning obesity accelerated by antibiotics in their food. 2.8 million from obesity itself, 1.5 from diabetes, 8.2 from cancer and 17.3 million from heart disease.

Almost a staggering 30 million.

Yes, antimicrobial resistance is a critical issue – identified by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sally Davies, as a threat on par with terrorism.

But it’s chicken-feed alongside our raging obesity epidemic – already visibly affecting two-thirds of all adults. Accelerating unstoppable from the growth boosting force of antibiotics now present across our entire food spectrum. Whatever we eat is making us fatter and fatter.

Fatness kills

Obesity is staring each of us in the face and the damage is already done. Five, ten or twenty years from now we will all succumb to the inevitable illnesses that our condition brings. Killed by antibiotics in far greater numbers than they ever actually saved.

Yes, it’s a disaster on a monumental scale – so great that the medical needs fade into insignificance. We need to get off antibiotics altogether – find an alternative before we all come to an end.

Yes, back to the Dark Ages where the drugs don’t work. Where surgery is almost impossible without a level of hygiene way above our sloppy habits of today. Our only defence against infection in a world without the miracle of antibiotics. Wash your hands or die.

Stop eating, stop living

Yes, away from the supersize factory farms that shovel antibiotics in industrial quantities into the billions of livestock needed to feed our 7½ billion mouths. Less food to eat, less and less and less – not just bringing our weight down, but our numbers too.

Back to the 2½ billion we used to be, before antibiotics exploded into our food supply.

Face it, two-thirds of us are going to die – whether we find an alternative for antibiotics or not. Because without their growth-boosting powers, there’s no chance we can sustain the food production levels necessary to feed us all.

Jim O’Neill describes the threat of rising AMR as a slow-motion car crash – an understatement against what antibiotics are doing across the board.

Maybe when the big numbers start dying, we’ll finally take notice. With antibiotics-driven obesity, we’re looking at the end of the world.

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Antibiotics resistance is just the tip of the iceberg

Sinking SOS
Antibiotics won’t save us – they’re already dragging us down

And we mean the biggest iceberg ever.

Because big though the issue of antibiotics resistance is, what’s coming is far worse.

And all we’re doing right now is rearranging the deckchairs before we smash into that iceberg full speed with our eyes wide open.

We need a Plan B, PDQ.

You see, disaster though it is, antibiotics resistance – or antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as the professionals know it – is already a side issue. The collapse of modern medicine, yes. Maybe even the collapse of the world.

Lord Jim O’Neill, AMR Review chairman for the Prime Minister, sort of hinted at it in his official paper.

Mind you, he was using it to demand that future medical use of antibiotics be severely restricted – only made available once proving tests have been made to justify administering them.

Lurking peril

Ah, but check out Page 5 of his Review – the section on Livestock Production. Note that yearly AGRICULTURAL use of antibiotics is estimated “from around 63,000 tonnes to over 240,000 tonnes.”

240,000 tonnes – do the math. That’s 240 billion milligrams – a 32 mg dose for every one of us 7½ billion people here on Earth, EVERY YEAR.

Small yes, a sub-therapeutic dose, but exactly what animals get in their feed to fatten them up for market – accelerate their growth to super-size, super-fast.

Uh huh. The animals are farmed for food – we eat them – the antibiotics in their systems are ingested into our own.

Which means two things.

  • Our own bodies could already have resistance to some kinds of antibiotics from the food we eat.
  • We have similar metabolisms, so in the same way that they get fat, we get fat too.

And we certainly do.

Bigger killers than superbugs

It’s already pretty obvious that two thirds of us adults are already overweight.  Which puts us nicely in line for all the ailments that being fat and obese bring – type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and a whole string of others. Slow killers that take 20 or 30 years to claim us. Beyond the radar for most people – including the doctors and politicians who currently shape our lives.

OK, do the math again. Worldwide that adds up to 3.7 million deaths a year from diabetes,  8.2 million from cancer, and  17.3 million from heart disease  – nearly 30 million a year.

Against that, current deaths from antibiotics resistance total 700,000 worldwide – barely 2.3% of the big killers – though projected to rise as high as 10 million by 2050.

Right now, 43 TIMES MORE OF US are dying a slow death from being overweight than those who succumb to antibiotics resistant superbugs.

Bad, huh?

What about the animals?

But even that’s not the real threat, astronomic though those figures are.

Lord O’Neill and Co are worried about antibiotics resistance, right? About the possible TOTAL failure of antibiotics at some stage in the near future – AS THEY IMPACT HUMAN BEINGS.

But how about animals?

Worldwide right now there are 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cows, and around 1 billion each of sheep  and pigs. Pretty well all of them raised on super-intensive factory farms – thousands crammed together in close, unhygienic conditions, kept alive by regular doses of antibiotics.

Must be hefty doses too, if it takes 240,000 tonnes a year to keep them going.

So what happens if antibiotics fail the animals too?

Well, living so close on top of each other, any illness is going to go through them faster than norovirus on a cruise ship. Except it probably won’t be norovirus, but something more deadly.

Remember bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – the CJD version of it? Millions of cows were destroyed to keep the disease out of the food chain.

The gruesome fact is that they were going to die anyway. Exactly the same as intensively farmed livestock around the world will do if a superbug takes hold – a runaway wildfire of animal deaths everywhere.

We’re going to get hungry

Which means overnight, no food to eat.

Worldwide.

No lunch or supper for 7½ billion people.

Well, not quite.

50 years ago, before antibiotics were shovelled into Daisy every day, world food production managed to support 2½ million people.

On the same land area – in fact, probably less from expanding cities and new towns springing up – antibiotics have pushed that to the 7½ billion we are now.

So at best 5 billion of us are going to go hungry – two thirds of the world population.

Replacement needed – urgent

So it’s not a question of controlling antibiotics, or running round looking for new ones. It’s time to dump them altogether. To start looking for replacements before a whole load of us die.

Time for our leaders to get serious. That iceberg is a lot bigger than it looks.

And it’s almost on top of us.

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No, no, George – we need to REPLACE antibiotics, not discover new ones

Research lab
Time for alternatives – 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics a year aren’t helping

George Osborne is absolutely right about one thing. We need coordinated global action on antibiotics ASAP or millions of people will die.

Not because superbugs are resistant to them so our miracle life-savers don’t work any more. But because our miracle life-savers are super killers in their own right – far deadlier than killing just the 10 million people a year George anticipates by 2050.

Killer life-savers

And make no mistake, they ARE killers. That’s how they work. Killing is what they’re designed to do. It’s why they’ve been so successful at saving lives in the past – they kill harmful bacteria that try to kill us.

Trouble is, that’s not all they kill. They’re not targeted that tightly. So in destroying the one harmful bacterium that’s so dangerous to us, they take out other  bacteria too. Modifying and maiming others. Collateral damage among the 100 trillion bacteria that naturally inhabit our human gut – not unlike setting off a hydrogen bomb.

Kind of devastating to our bodies, because those bacteria are supposed to be there. Without them we wouldn’t be able to digest food or control most of our bodily functions. Nor would our immune systems work.

Sure, a course of antibiotics can cure us of an illness. But our systems never come back 100% to where they were before. While many bacteria can quickly reproduce themselves to make up numbers, whole colonies of others are simply wiped out. The essential diversity that defends us is lost. We are more at risk, less resilient, weaker than we were.

As for the damage antibiotics cause, we’re seeing the results every day – in the spreading waistlines of our rapidly fattening population. Today, two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese. So are one third of children. And as any doctor can advise, obesity puts us well on the road to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Not just 10 million a year, George. More like 100 times that.

The glutton factory

Caused by the side effect that antibiotics glitch the mechanism that controls our hunger. It switches on, but never switches off – unconsciously we’re always craving food, even though we’ve just eaten. We become gluttons, OD-ing on quick-charge power foods like burgers, pizza, hot dogs and chips.

Of course farmers lucked onto this decades ago. That feeding antibiotics to livestock would make them bulk up quicker. Four times as big, in quarter of the time, all for the same amount of food. The ultimate growth booster. Today, 70% of all antibiotics goes into agriculture.

Jackpot!

Which is why world consumption of antibiotics is now between 65,000 and 240,000 TONNES a year. Not our thumb-suck either, that’s straight out of the Prime Minister’s specially requested review of antibiotics: Antimicrobials in Agriculture and the Environment.

Which also means George, that it’s not exactly necessary to incentivise pharmaceutical companies to produce antibiotics. At 240,000 tonnes a year, they’re making a mint already.

Now we get to the nasty bit.

Super growth promoters

OK, so those 240,000 tonnes get fed to cows (and sheep and pigs and poultry and fish) along with their daily feedstuff. They chew it around and digest it, extracting the nutrients they need, then promptly poo 80-90% of it straight out again as waste.

Well no, not waste. Manure – rich, fertile nutrition for plants, laced through with antibiotics. Grazing grass, feed crops like sugar beet, soya and rapeseed, fed BACK into animals. Fertiliser for fruit, veg and grain staples like rice and wheat and maize.

Yup, you’ve got it. Pretty well everything that we humans eat these days has residual antibiotics in it. Our share of the 240,000 tonnes a year.

Not big doses, mind. Strictly sub-therapeutic. Small enough for our own gut bacteria to develop their own built-in antibiotic resistance. And of course small enough to knock our hunger switches out of kilter so we all become food gluttons – bulking up on power foods just like the cows do. Four times as big, in quarter of the time. Gimme another five burgers.

Yeah, so antibiotics, George. Not one of your best ideas.

But a replacement for them, now you’re talking.

Bacteriophages

The topdog medics will probably throw up their hands, but one option might be bacteriophages – using VIRUSES to kill harmful bacteria, the way the Soviets did back in the Cold War. Easier to target more precisely – more rifle than shotgun – easy to mutate in parallel as bacteria themselves mutate to find resistance.

Easy to fund too – just take it out of the profits being used to produce 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics a year that the world no longer needs because they’re killing us. Or at least the diabetes, heart disease and cancer they trigger through obesity that are killing us.

One snag. It takes 12 or more years to develop a new drug and release it to patients. In the meantime, we have no defence – as antibiotics literally become worse than useless.

Hygiene to the rescue

Ah, but we’re not dead yet.

Because the one sure way to compensate for antibiotics is AVOID needing them in the first place.

We can’t get sick if there are no germs. So we need to ensure that there aren’t any.

Right now, our daily hygiene is so iffy, it’s a wonder we’re not dying in droves already.

Easy peasy, right George?

Soap and water when we can, antibacterial wipes or gel when we can’t. A lot more affordable than 240,000 tonnes of killer antibiotics.

But it’s not just germs on our hands. We need to look at our living space as well. The enclosed rooms we share at school, work, eating out or being entertained – they’re full of germs too. Unless we mist them up overnight when we’re not there – sterilise germs in the air and on all surfaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide.

No germs on our hands, no germs where we live. Barring accidents we could get by without antibiotics – at least in the short term.

Over to you, George.

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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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Will your doctor give you cancer?

Doctor with capsule
Antibiotics might save lives quick – they can also trigger a long, slow death

Oh no, cancer! We’ve got to be kidding, right?

Doctors are there to save lives, not threaten them.

True. And more dedicated, committed professionals you could never find anywhere.

Except our own cleverness is catching up- with us.

Especially with antibiotics.

Deadly to bacteria, in more ways than one

We think of them as lifesavers – and yes, they are. Without antibiotics, most of modern medicine would be near impossible – particularly surgical procedures.

Heart bypasses and joint replacements might be routine, but without antibiotics to control infection they couldn’t even be attempted.

Medical miracles, it’s amazing what antibiotics have enabled us to do.

But the gleam is fading.

Fifty years after they were first discovered, they’re showing a major downside. Increasingly, bacteria are mutating to neutralise their effect – the germs that can kill us are becoming immune. Unstoppable.

Over-use and abuse

Totally our fault of course.

We have these magic silver bullets – so of course we use them everywhere. Doctors know they’re potent and need care, which is why all antibiotics are on prescription. But we’re so hyped up about these amazing cure-alls, we demand them for everything.

Which puts us on the cliff edge – about to plunge backwards, more than a hundred years. If antibiotics don’t work any more, what do we do then?

It’s a growing headache – which England’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Dame Sally Davies, puts on the same scale as the threat of terrorism. People are going to die because antibiotics don’t work any more – and doctors are powerless to prevent it.

But not quite yet.

Not all antibiotics are powerless against germs, even though some germs have evolved to be resistant to ALL antibiotics. If we can curb our massive over-use, we stand a fighting chance.

Which is why Dame Sally and the whole medical profession are constantly campaigning to limit antibiotic use.

A monumental uphill battle. Thanks to patient pressure, one in four of all prescriptions for antibiotics written in the UK is unnecessary. Minor ailments are sledge-hammer blitzed when ordinary paracetamol would be more than effective.

Or even a nice, restorative cup of tea – our grandparents knew a thing or two.

But medical over-use is only the tip of the iceberg.

Every year, over FOUR HUNDRED TONNES of antibiotics are shovelled into livestock up and down the country together with their regular feed.

Big profits drive this – the farmers’ rolling jackpot. Because the name of the game in agriculture is that antibiotics promote growth.

They bulk up animals and plants to twice the size in half the time – often even quicker. From egg to supermarket chicken in six weeks  – or more amazingly, calves for quality beef are market-ready between 3 and 16 weeks.

Fat Pills

Forget medical cures, the big plus with antibiotics is they MAKE THINGS GROW FAT.

So while we’ve been swallowing pills to make us better, farmers have been shoving them in to make animals bigger. On an industrial scale – think ship-building or trucks.

And they’ve been doing it for over fifty years – accelerating over the last twenty. Billions and billions of cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry and fish. Billions and billions of tonnes of fruit, vegetables and grain crops. Our entire food spectrum at the supermarket.

Which means everything we’ve been eating for the last twenty years has included proven growth promoters – through antibiotics added DIRECTLY to animal feed, or RESIDUAL quantities acquired via manure and soil enrichment.

Hello obesity

So guess what? WE’RE GETTING FAT TOO. Two thirds of us are already overweight and lurching towards serious medical problems.

Down in our gut, where our personal bacteria thrive, digesting our food and maintaining our systems, antibiotics have disturbed the natural balance that controls our appetite – putting our pedal to the metal in ghrelin production, the hormone that tells us to eat, eat, eat.

Result?

Crucial bacteria are destroyed or damaged, encouraging the growth of enterobacteriaceae, the obesity pathogen. And we’re up to our necks in an obesity epidemic – which according to Dame Sally is ALSO as dangerous as terrorism.

Makes you fat, makes you ill

And that’s where the cancer comes in. From the ciprofloxacin given to you by your doctor.

It might have cured your chest infection – but could also be the spur that tips your gut bacteria over the edge, wiping out whole families of useful and friendly bacteria, allowing enterobacteriaceae to thrive.

You may not have started fat, but along with the other trace antibiotics you eat daily with every meal, it’s so easy to bulk up. Size, 16, size 18 – jump-starting your way to obesity.

And obesity triggers not only cancer, but heart disease, diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, gout and asthma. Better watch your diet very carefully now – you can’t undo the damage or replace the missing bacteria, but you can avoid the slippery slope.

Illness avoidance

Priority One, avoid antibiotics as much as you can. Difficult when they’re in everything you eat, but you can REDUCE your intake. Organic vegetables as far as possible – they’re less likely to be grown from enriched manure – and deep ocean fish like cod and haddock, the ones they CAN’T farm.

Priority Two, avoid germs, so you don’t need antibiotics. Wash your hands whenever you think of it – certainly before food and after the loo. They might LOOK clean, but you can’t see viruses or bacteria – sometimes as small as 2 microns across, they’re difficult even with a microscope.

But they’re there, always – nano-dirt you can’t see, just waiting to enter your body – transferred from your fingers onto food – or into the soft tissue round your eyes and mouth.

They’re all around us too, on every surface and swirling around us in the air. Know how the sun shows up dust particles in a cross-beam? Germs are like that, only billions of times more – constant work for your immune system.

But you can reduce those too by making your rooms sterile, bringing viruses and bacteria around you down to zero. All it takes is a Hypersteriliser, a machine that mists up the air with ionised hydrogen peroxide, an eco-friendly germ killer that reaches everywhere and grabs germs on the fly, oxidising them to nothing.

Will your doctor give you cancer?

Not today, thank goodness. But don’t go asking for antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Yeah, they’re lifesavers. But in ten or twenty years time, if they trigger obesity, they could also make you dead.

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How we stress ourselves into illness

Girl on railway line
Your own mind can be
as deadly as any germs

You can’t always blame it on germs.

A lot of the time, the cause is our own sloppy hygiene.

Or, a bit more scary, we can also THINK ourselves ill.

Sounds weird, but we all know the truth of it.

Know that feeling before an interview when your body goes crazy?

Self hype

Upset tummy, unexpected shivers, apprehension and dread filling your head.

It’s not germs causing that.

It’s you.

Or more specifically, it’s you stressing yourself out.

Most of the time, it’s a one-off we get over quickly.

You’ve done the dentist, yes the root canal hurt, but now it’s over.

The relief is so strong, you get the munchies. And the heck with your sore mouth, that chicken and chorizo baguette is irresistible.

Dangerous company

But stress is not always one-off. And you mess with it at your peril.

A run of misfortune brought down normally fit Dave Dowdeswell with Type 2 diabetes. Grief, bad luck and business failure all at once – something had to give, and it was his body.

It could just as easily have been an ulcer, or cancer.

Imbalance in the body looks for whatever weakness it can find. Stress yourself out about something and there is always a price.

If you’re lucky, it’s momentary, like the nerves before an interview.

If it stays around long-term, you’re going to feel it more. Like there’s a car crash and somebody dear to you dies.

And there’s not a lot of defence against it, except attitude.

Part of the price we pay for the cocooned and sheltered lives we lead.

Oh yes, we’re softies. That’s why stress screws us up so much.

Hard times

Back in Victorian times, a death in the family was not unusual. Weaker diets, lower hygiene, illness was more inevitable – especially among children. Living with grief was more familiar. So was knowing how to handle it.

Most of us have never known anybody die. We’ve never seen a dead body, particularly of someone we love. Which is why we go to pieces when we do.

But life goes on.

And it will do so whether we stress or not.

So we have to teach ourselves to handle it.

Not to be heartless or uncaring. But to see reality for what it is, and come to terms with it.

Victorians went through denial, anger and acceptance, just like we do.

But they could live with it.

And so must we.

Diabetes, cancer, nervous breakdown – stress doesn’t care which it is. If we don’t get ourselves under control, it will choose for us anyway.

The mind has it

Which is where attitude comes in.

We think things change, and so do circumstances. They’re big, they’re small, dramatic, life-threatening.

Well actually no, they’re just things. Our perspective of them changes according to our attitude.

If you’re upbeat and positive, you can handle them. Beat your chest and throw your toys out of the cot, they will overwhelm and destroy you.

Stress can be a killer, but only if we let it. And we can all change it, just by attitude. (Tweet this)

Sure, there’s Xanax, Valium, Prozac – all mamma’s little helpers  when stress hits.

But think about it, why are you stressed?

If you’re honest, most of the time it’s all in the mind, right?

So the only way to rescue yourself is think yourself out of it.

Worth remembering, that. Remembering well.

When the end of the world happens, at least you have a lifeline.

There’s cancer in all of us – but don’t let it kill you

Happy woman
Happily ever after starts with you
(Tweet this)

The clock is ticking.

Are you taking care – or taking chances?

Every second could change your life, depending on what you do with it.

And it’s much more of a life and death decision than most of us think.

In your own hands

Latest figures from Cancer Research UK reveal that half of us will get cancer at some stage of our lives. More and more of us are in the older age groups and more susceptible to wear and tear.

How much wear – and how much tear, depends on us of course.

We all know we should lead a healthy life – some of us better than others.

Razzling around and chasing the high spots has a price tag that none of us can avoid.

But while age is the biggest – and most unavoidable – risk, it’s not the cause of cancer.

Being out of balance is.

Losing it

Cancer happens when body cells begin to behave abnormally. A defect, a weakness, and we are in trouble.

Most of the time, damaged cells are flushed out – the body does it daily, part of the rough and tumble of living.

Because cells don’t go rogue by themselves.

An outside shove does it for them, usually triggered by our behaviour or lifestyle.

And the biggest shove of all is one we’re not aware of – always there, day by day, always pushing us.

Stress.

Yeah, right. As if that’s new.

Everybody has work stress, you just have to live with it.

And home stress? It goes with the territory.

Unavoidable stress levels that depend entirely at how good you are at coping with them.

Enter, digital stress

Except that these days, the stress levels we face are higher than ever before.

Fast-paced, results-driven modern living, what do you expect?

And it’s all us, just us.

Another recent study concludes that there is no link between cancer and using mobile phones. No link to electromagnetic fields – computers, powerlines, television.

Uh huh.

Maybe not physically.

But the pressures they unleash are unprecedented.

Full of angst and emotional strain, teenagers constantly stress about relationships. Every text, picture, Facebook post or Twitter tweet is potentially a full-scale breakdown.

Other media aren’t much better. Television, newspapers. Who among us is not appalled, shocked, sickened, or just plain scared of recent terrorist actions in our own cities – let alone the Middle East?

Stress, worry, uncertainty. They all throw the body out of kilter.

Sleepless nights, stomach upsets, headaches. Just the kind of shove that cancer needs.

So it’s not so much that we’re getting old at all.

Heartbreak, heart attack

A bust-up with a boyfriend is the end of the world. Handling it is impossible. Overwhelming grief, loss of appetite, listlessness, reduced will to live – is it surprising that a weakness occurs, the body reacts and damage is done?

Just the kind of damage that gives cancer a foothold – maybe not straight away, but inevitable in the future.

It’s not just cancer either.

Every moment of every day we’re surrounded by billions of viruses and bacteria – many of them inside our bodies.

First sign of weakness and they’re in too – and stressed people are careless, not paying full attention to the world around them.

Preoccupied or distracted, a cut or scrape can so easily happen. Even forgetting to wash hands properly is enough to do it. First sign of sloppy hygiene and infection is in, not wanting to let go.

Which is when the Doc reminds you that antibiotics don’t work as well as the used to – those rotten germs have developed an immunity.

Cancer, bugs, medicines that don’t work. What on earth can you do to survive?

Watch yourself all the time. Keep clean and healthy. Make sure your mind is right.

Sure, some folks have survived smoking and drinking to reach 104.

Long odds though, with plenty of losers along the way.

If you really want to get there yourself, stay balanced.

Don’t let the nasties grind you down.