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.
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.
Brace yourself. Genetically modified foods are back in town.
All over the headlines nearly 20 years ago. A big public outcry to get them off the market.
Genetically modified, see. To be immune to pesticides. So when crops are sprayed to get rid of weeds, the important plants aren’t affected.
Yeah, great. But how about the super-weeds that become pesticide resistant? Running riot, ready to take over the planet. And what about the dependant ecology – birds, insects, other plants – the whole biological balance?
And what do they do to us humans?
We showed them back then. 1999, it was. Together with the Daily Mail – guns blazing, run that stuff out of town. And we did, all consumers together. Told our supermarkets “No Deal” – we didn’t want any of that Frankenstein stuff.
Well guess what?
Just checking out this year’s National Farmers’ Union conference, they’ve showed up again. Digging by the Mail has exposed GM foods are back. In up to 80% of maize and soya fed to livestock that become the meat that we eat. Sneaked into our supermarket fridges by big money corporations with no questions asked. We pays the money, the retail chains keep schtum.
Yeah, bad news, the pits.
GM and worse
But squeaky clean alongside the ANTIBIOTICS you’ll find in the same food. Especially since those mega-buck conglomerates have no idea they’re there anyway.
Yeah, GM crops – we can probably live with them.
But genetically modified human beings – meaning YOU and everyone else on this planet – that’s seriously screwing with us. Because that’s exactly what antibiotics do long-term – screw up our genes, shake up our body balance.
Ever wondered why we’re all getting fat? Or why we’re getting sick more than we used to?
Thanks for nothing – from antibiotics. In the food that we eat – straight from the supermarket.
You see, they’re actually ADDED to livestock foods, like the maize and soya already GM cultivated – deliberately fed to animals to make them grow bigger, stronger and faster.
And animals have been fed that stuff for decades – generation after generation of cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and even fish – fattened up for market in high density factory farms. Places so crowded, and hygienically iffy, those same animals NEED antibiotics to stop them falling sick in droves.
All in the poo
OK, let’s get basic.
Every farm animal – cows, sheep, chickens – makes poo. Tons and tons of the stuff – a major source of nutrients for all plant life. In fact the average cow probably pumps 80 – 90% of the stuff that it eats back out again – super-enriched food to make fertile manure.
Laced through and through with residual antibiotics.
Right, so follow the chain. The poo enriches grass for grazing – to be re-eaten by those same animals. More of the same stuff to bulk them up – the farmer’s rubbing his hands, although probably has no idea it’s there.
Because they’re in the grass, antibiotics residues are in the animals’ silage too. They get them with every mouthful, even though the farmer will withdraw antibiotics in their feed – for an elimination period required by law – before sending them off to market.
Plus of course, the poo gets collected for manure – which spreads antibiotic residues everywhere it’s used – including the GM farmed crops of maize and soya to be used as additional feed. So even though the animals are not receiving direct doses, they’re still mainlining with every mouthful.
It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere
The same manure of course, gets used everywhere else too – for fruit, grain and vegetable crops, everything. There are no laws or restrictions on its use, so it may even wind up being used to encourage growth of ORGANIC crops too. Organic crops thought to be pure, but containing antibiotic residues.
Oh yeah, and while we remember, antibiotics are widely used to boost plant growth too – sprayed on, mulched into the soil, or sometimes injected – and there’s no legal restriction on how that happens. They’re also used like pesticides – to control white spot, blight and leaf rot. More residues.
Since they’re in the soil, the residues leach down into the ground too, to be borne away by rainwater and runoff into the river systems. Which means there are antibiotic traces in our drinking water too – everything we eat or drink, right across the food spectrum.
Now here’s the thing. We think of antibiotics as medicines, right? Miracle drugs that prevent and cure infection, protecting us from illness and disease. They do this by killing pathogenic bacteria, prescribed according to whatever the need is, to target treatment more effectively.
Not so bad if applied locally, to the skin or directly to a sutured area. But a real full-on drama if taken internally. Because as doctors are now starting to realise, our bodies are actually 90% bacteria and only 10% human – a mutual and harmonious partnership that makes us the amazing creatures that we are.
Down in our gut, where everything we eat eventually winds up, there are hundreds of trillions of bacteria – our microbiota – a diverse and carefully balanced community handling all kinds of functions, including digestion, protein production and regulating our immune system.
Pitch any kind of bacteria-killing antibiotic in there and it’s mayhem. Medicinal antibiotics might home in on specific pathogens, but a lot of other bacteria types inevitably get in the way. Residual antibiotics attack pretty well anything.
Bang, the end of carefully balanced harmony, the whole community goes out of kilter. Some whole species get wiped out, others are severely devastated. Not good for their basic defence system, which is to crowd invaders out by sheer numbers, impossible if half of them are missing.
Er, damaged gut bacteria. With damaged DNA. Unable to do what they’re supposed to do. Genetically modified gastrointestinal malfunction. Oh, sorry!
All kinds of things happen as a result, none of them positive. Yes, we might get rid of whatever bug we got our prescription for, but everything else is a downer. Plus there’s no coming back. Some bacteria resuscitate if their numbers are big enough. But the minor groups are gone for good – the system never comes back to 100%. Being genetically modified is a one-way street.
First to go is usually appetite control – and how many nutrients should be extracted from food. At worst, there are no limits, the body eats gluttonously, side-stepping the brain and indulging itself simply because it can.
More likely we wonder why the hell we start ballooning up, we’re not eating any more and we don’t normally guts ourselves anyway. Yeah, but the body absorbs more as it passes through – with our bacteria on the fritz, it squeezes out food value that much tighter. Check your poo – eating the same but passing less? It’s on your tummy and your thighs and your bum.
Uh huh. Exactly the mechanism that makes farm animals bulk up – only now it’s happening to us. Just one of the happy surprises that genetically modified means. Without controls, we pull out more food value than we should – and pile on the pounds big time.
Fat, fatter, obese – but it’s not all lifestyle. Devastating consequences though – type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, asthma – and a lengthening list of other ailments, most of them slow, debilitating and ultimately fatal. Unless we realise what’s happening, we can eat ourselves to death.
And we’re already on the way. Check out Parliament’s own Obesity Statistics. 24% of adults in England are obese and a further 36% are overweight. Double the way we were in 1994 – when GM foods first pushed their way into our supermarkets – and farmers started ramping up antibiotics in animal feed, now at 324,000 tonnes per year worldwide and counting.
Want more proof we’re already genetically modified?
Well, since when did we develop all these sudden allergies, sensitivities and intolerances?
Some of them are because we grow up too clean these days – too little time as toddlers, eating dirt. Our immune systems are a combination of our inheritance from our mothers and what our bodies learn in our formative years, teaching our gut bacteria how to defend us.
Hmm, not so rosy any more. For a start, Mum’s own immune system is genetically modified from a lifetime of residual antibiotic damage – and probably under-powered from her own birth because HER Mum was genetically modified too.
On top of that, the world we live in has fewer challenges to even a generation ago. Major league killers like cholera and typhoid don’t exist any more – which means our immune reflexes sit twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do.
OK, so they invent something. And our high-powered defences over-react, chasing phantoms. We get a reaction, even plunge into life-threatening anaphylactic shock – coming down with asthma, eczema, hay fever, urticaria, coeliac disease, dermatitis, lactose intolerance, nut allergies and a million more – a three-fold increase on where we were back in the 70s.
Time to strike back. Pressure our supermarkets into rejecting GM foods – and antibiotics too. Go organic if we can. Avoid antibiotics like the plague – because they might save lives in the short term, but in the long run they’re killers.
Which also means stay away from germs wherever possible so that our weakened systems stand a better chance of survival. Only one way round that – wash your hands like your life depends on it (which it does) – and sterilise the area around you whenever you can with a Hypersteriliser. If there are no germs, you can’t get hit.
Yeah, genetically modified foods – at least they’re well intended, despite the side effects. Not like antibiotics – they’re about as helpful as being genetically modified with a baseball bat.
Here’s this machine that, for all the world, could be a compact office photocopier.
Except this particular box of tricks takes out viruses and bacteria – attacking like a death ray to destroy their DNA.
Safe, fast, sterile
Five minutes later, all germs are gone. Everywhere the death ray probed is sterile.
A death ray that is, for viruses and bacteria.
Potent for humans too, as we all know. The energy that powers it is the same that gives you sunburn – ultraviolet light. Overdo the exposure, and you’re in for an uncomfortable time.
But with this nifty Hyperpulse machine, you’re the one calling the shots.
Ultraviolet to the rescue
OK, apart from sunburn you’ve probably experienced UV before – the teenager’s big giggle. It makes that cool purple glow on the dance floor in discotheques – triggering bright fluorescent colours and showing white underwear under dark clothing.
Ah yes, but that’s not the same UV.
Also known as “black light” the show-biz version is longwave ultraviolet – UV-A. Pretty well harmless and very popular for special effects.
The stuff the Hyperpulse emits is way more powerful. Which is why it needs care.
This is UV-C – very short wavelength – on the fringes of becoming X-rays.
And no wonder it kills germs.
No wonder you should stay out of the room when it’s in use too. You don’t want to risk eye or skin damage. But if you’re curious, you can watch safely through a glass window. The short wavelength UV cannot pass through.
HIgh intensity energy
Start the machine with its remote control – and first thing a glass tube pops up out of the top, like an extending periscope. Inside is the xenon light source, the secret of the Hyperpulse’s efficiency.
Back in the good old days, germ-killing UV-C rays were generated by mercury vapour lamps – the same light source as in those ultra-bright streetlamps. The silver ones, not the orange – those are sodium vapour.
Continuous light from the mercury vapour lamps exposed the room being treated to UV-C, killed the germs and the place was sterile. Except it took several hours to do.
Technology has moved on from there, which is how the Shield Hyperpulse gets its name.
Split-second power killing
Like lightning or a photographer’s flashgun, the powerful 200 watt xenon lamp discharges UV-C energy in split-second concentrated bursts – pulsed at one second intervals to regenerate the charge.
It does the same job as the mercury vapour, but in 5 to 10 minutes, depending on room size.
That makes the Hyperpulse perfect for situations demanding rapid turn-around. A super-busy A&E, or a dentist’s surgery. Quick sterile blitz between high volume patients – 10 minutes and the facility is ready for use again.
Impossible by hand in the same time – not even just the high touch areas, like bedside rails, over-bed tables, television controls, bedside and bathroom grab-bars, or the toilet seat in the patient’s bathroom.
Which means, working under pressure in time-crunch conditions, that any form or sterilising doesn’t get done beyond a very quick wipedown. Less than perfect in a world where HAIs are an increasing concern.
Time vs efficiency
There is of course, a downside. A trade-off between quick results and maximum effectiveness. Hence the machine’s only 99,999% germicidal performance or Log 5 kill rate.
Like any light, the pulsed xenon rays cause shadows – areas where the UV-C does not penetrate – the reverse side of beds and treatment room furniture, behind or under objects in it.
One way round this is multiple exposure from different positions, moving the machine in between. Another is to position mirrors where regular coverage is required. Both extending the time to make sterile.
Better still is to supplement Hyperpulse sessions with a nightly follow up by Hypersteriliser – full Log 6 treatment with fine-mist hydrogen peroxide plasma to ensure the entire room is 99.9999% sterile.
Hiking hygiene habits higher
Expect to see more of the Hyperpulse. With antibiotics become less effective as pathogens become resistant to them, preventative hygiene is becoming more vital daily.
Over-stretched A&E working flat out, with worries about c.diff, MRSA, VRE, CRE, or acinetobacter?