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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a hard choice if you’re lazy. Stop germs positively, or face the consequences.
Because tomorrow, antibiotics won’t work any more.
So there’s no taking chances.
No more, “I’ll be OK, the Doc can give me something to make it better.”
Because there’ll be no “something”.
The only thing between you and getting ill will be your own clean hands – and how good you are at keeping germs away from you.
Already bacteria have learned how to resist them. And as the oldest successful living beings on the planet, bacteria always survive.
All our own fault
Plus they’ve learned from our stupidity.
We get ill, we take antibiotics – and stop as soon as we feel better.
Not when the germs are gone – when we feel better.
So there’s a few survivors around to live another day. The strongest and the most resilient. Ready to breed another few thousand generations before next time. And at twenty minutes a generation, they’re ready before we are.
And next time, we use the left-over medicine but it’s not enough. So the bacteria don’t die, they endure. Able to outlast the next lot we throw at them. Becoming superbugs. And teaching others to become superbugs too.
Superbugs, super-dangerous, super problem
Heard of MRSA? That’s methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. A superbug which lives naturally in your nose – but don’t get it in your bloodstream.
You go to hospital with any of those, you might not come out again.
The drugs don’t work
Because the days of taking a cure are past – our miracle antibiotics do zip. And that’s not us saying so, it’s our top Chief Medical Officer of England, Dr Dame Sally Davies – in her book The Drugs Don’t Work – and in just about every public statement since she wrote it.
No more you get sick, you take the medicine.
Now you mustn’t get sick. Period.
If you want to live, you’ve got to be hygienic like never before. Wash your hands whenever you do anything – before and after. Keep your surroundings clean as a whistle.
And make a deliberate effort to stop germs – avoid them, prevent them, eliminate them.
Not just some of the time, but all of the time.
Because bacteria never give up – and they know we’re careless.
Which means we’ve got to stop the wrong ones getting to us and taking us down.
Hype up the hygiene
Not something you can do with a scrubbing brush and bleach. Not even lathered in carbolic every second of the day. You can’t get to all the places microscopic germs can hide – and you can’t scrub the air, which is 80% of our indoor living space.
Remember, there’s nothing between you and a noxious infection except prevention.
It’s safe and non-toxic – though a little irritant to eyes and throat. And it kills ALL bacteria, viruses and fungi to a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level in 40 minutes or less, depending on room size.
Stop germs at work – and your colleagues are safe from each other and whatever is going around. Healthy and well, not fighting colds or tummy upsets – making money, getting on with the job.
Stop germs at school – and your kids are safe from all the bugs inevitably gathered where slap-happy hygiene puts them at risk. Did you ever know a 6-year-old who voluntarily remembered to wash their hands?
Stop germs at home – and your family is safe in the one place where they should be, a haven from outside against weather, worries and sickness.
Stop germs and live
OK, so antibiotics don’t work any more – or may not within the next few years. We have a defence and it’s highly effective – to avoid getting sick in the first place.
Either we have a medical condition. Or something makes us that way.
Basically eating too much. And our bodies absorbing it without need.
Except nobody is fat by choice. Going for the most fattening foods and scoffing double helpings.
Most of the time, we’re not even aware of it. Unconsciously chowing down more than we should.
Not knowingly, or of our own free will. Just driven by our bodies.
So what makes our bodies demand more than they should?
The hunger feeling is real and won’t go away – yet we’ve already had enough to satisfy us.
It’s like we’re being fattened up. Like turkeys before Christmas, fattening up for market.
There is a difference.
We’re just eating – or at least think we are.
But turkeys are deliberately dosed with growth boosters along with their feed. The same growth boosters fed to all commercial livestock – chickens, cattle, pigs, sheep, even fish. Stepped up and more concentrated over the last twenty years. But used by livestock farmers worldwide since the early 50s.
Which means so are we. And our daily exposure to antibiotics is total – the most successful growth boosters of all time.
The real Hunger Games
Drip-drip, the ghrelin hormone that switches on our hunger is super-stimulated, permanently set to ON. At the same time, the OFF hormone leptin is over-ridden, so we never know when we’ve had enough.
On top of that, the accelerated digestion in our gut works more efficiently, extracting more nutrients than our systems are able to process, storing the excess as fat. We still excrete the extra nutrients we don’t need, but retain far more than we should.
The cows and pigs and chickens do the same. Pooing out around 80% of the food value they eat – along with traces of all the vitamin additives and medicines in their systems, including antibiotics.
Their poo becomes manure, used directly or indirectly as fertiliser to enrich the soil and stimulate plant growth. Cereal crops, grain, fruit and vegetables are all accelerated in the same way. So there’s antibiotics in them too.
As there is in the grass, mown hay and feedstuff crops fed BACK to the same animals – more antibiotics micro-doses to quicken their systems and bulk them up faster.
Which means continuous micro-doses of antibiotics in all of our own food – meat and vegetables – the most successful growth booster of al time. Constantly ingested by our bodies with every meal we eat.
Fattening up like turkeys? That’s exactly what we are.
External influences changing our bodies without our knowledge – and certainly without our permission.
The blame game
So who should we sue for being fattened against our will?
The farmers? The antibiotics manufacturing companies?
Possibly, though they’re only doing their job. Our personal concerns are not even on their radar.
They are to our health authorities though – and they’re hardly unaware of the problem.
Not a day goes by without somebody from Public Health England or DEFRA or the Food Standards Agency voicing alarm about antibiotic resistance.
Our miracle drugs aren’t performing as well as they did because superbug bacteria are becoming immune to them. They’re learning resistance through overuse and abuse of antibiotics across the board.
Over-prescribed by doctors and used in industrial quantities by agriculture. 240,000 tonnes a year worldwide – accelerating to nearly another 70% by 2030.
Which says, yes – our health authorities KNOW about antibiotics used as growth boosters. But their focus is on the medical implications of antibiotic resistance.
Cue much hand wringing and corporate crocodile tears.
Our health authorities also KNOW we have a fat problem. From their own statistics they alert us to a growing epidemic – that two thirds of British adults are already overweight or obese, as well as one third of children.
They also KNOW the implications of obesity. The long, slow slide towards asthma, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Snowballing costs for the NHS accounting for 30 million deaths currently – versus just 700,000 for antibiotic resistance.
30 million deaths – half the population of the country – isn’t anybody minding the store?
And they know it’s a problem. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies herself, warns that obesity is a threat as serious as terrorism.
Stack that up against the 30 million likely to die from obesity they are carrying right now.
Which gives us a lot of leeway, deciding who’s answerable.
Because though it never occurs to us, a lot of people know that antibiotics make us fat. And they can’t evade that responsibility, just like the tobacco industry can’t claim smoking is not a health risk.
The truth is that antibiotics make us fat.
Health authorities know, government knows, drug companies know and farmers know.
Just possibly supermarkets know and fast food chains as well. It’s the fashion now to claim foods are antibiotics-free.
One thing’s for certain though. We’re off the hook blaming ourselves for being fat.
We might be oversize, but this is a blame game we’re not playing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No A&E is not closed. They’re just very busy. Life-threatening crises only – there’s some seriously heavy doctoring going on in there.
Life-threatening because that’s what they’re swamped with. Lots of people who might die.
Because of antimicrobial resistance, that’s the nightmare they’re fighting. You may have heard of it as AMR.
None of their antibiotics in the cupboard are working any more – they’re failing because of superbugs.
Doctors always knew it was going to happen. Since antibiotics were first discovered, bacteria have always found a way to develop immunity. Sooner or later, the next wonder-drug becomes useless. And now all of them are.
The end of modern medicine
So it’s back to hands-on medicine with bandages and antiseptics. Doing everything the hard way.
No more miracle recoveries, from now on we all have to face the hard facts of life.
It hasn’t happened yet of course. But it’s sure as hell going to. And very, very soon. Dr Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, has been warning us of it for years.
And when it does, all the amazing capabilities of modern medicine will come tumbling down in ruins. No more heart bypasses. The end of hip replacements. Caesarean births no longer possible. The end of any major surgery because drug-driven infection control is finished. A&E stalled.
Not just operations either. Think of all the ailments we run to the GP for that we clobber with antibiotics. Especially for our kids.
When antibiotics fail, there is no safety net. No more bacteria-bashing for us. It’s bacteria’s turn to strike back.
Yes, we’re vulnerable. But we’re not dead yet. If we’re watchful, we can survive.
Friends, not enemies
First off, if we can’t beat them, we should join them. A lot easier than most of us think, because we’re not the living beings we think we are. Only 10% of us is human.
The rest is bacteria, actually essential to our needs. Fulfilling a zillion functions – from digestion, to protein production, to even managing our immune systems. Going to war with bacteria is going to war with ourselves.
Of course there is good bacteria and bad bacteria. Or more accurately, bacteria in the right place – and bacteria in the wrong place. When we come down with bacterial ailments, those are really the bad guys in the wrong place.
Which means our best survival chances are by protecting the good bacteria from the bad. Shielding them from contact, or avoiding possible exposure. Effective defence, long before getting to A&E.
Yes, so second, we need to take care. No more blundering around without thinking. We need to be alert always. Aware of accident opportunities and steering clear. Slice your finger chopping vegetables, and you could be in serious trouble. Especially if A&E can’t help.
Third, we need all the protection we can get. Keep those bad bacteria away. Never let them get near us, so we’re never threatened.
Which puts a major stress on hygiene. Deliberately taking it way more serious – and never letting our guard down. Bad bacteria can’t get to us if there aren’t any around.
So it’s washing hands before and after we do anything. And much more thoroughly than we might have done before. Two minutes with soap and water, not the token rinse we usually kid ourselves with.
It’s cleaning and washing everything around us too. No good if our hands are clean and we touch something contaminated. Bacteria are everywhere, billions and billions of them – on every surface and in the air around us.
Yeah, OK. We can rub and scrub with bleach like we’re paranoid. We still won’t reach everywhere and bacteria are persistent. Bugs like norovirus and salmonella are notorious for coming back over and over again.
Stacking the odds
Luckily, there is a way to annihilate them. Oxidise them with hydrogen peroxide. Their cells are ripped apart by oxygen atoms. No more threat – ALL viruses and bacteria are destroyed.
Press one button and the place mists up with IONISED hydrogen peroxide – more potent and way more effective than other methods. Electrically charged, the ultra-fine mist particles are galvanised into escaping from each other. Pushing into every crack and crevice, reaching underneath and behind things, hard up against walls, floor and ceiling.
That same charge reaches out and grabs at germs like a magnet too. With the opposite charge, they are helplessly attracted – to be zapped into nothing by an oxidising phalanx of hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet.
Germ-free – safe
Give it 40 minutes and all germs are gone. 99.9999% of them, to a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6. Down to just one germ out of every million particles in the room – almost infinitesimally nothing.
Imagine, the room is germ-free. Even though we bring our own cloud of germs in with us, we’re stepping into a zero threshold. Can’t get much better protection than that.
And don’t panic, A&E might be hard-pressed, but they’re not totally swamped yet.
Bump our hygiene levels all round though, and they stand a better chance of riding the tsunami to come.
Amazing though isn’t it?
We can prevent the end of the world, just by washing our hands.