Doctors already know antibiotics are killers.
That’s what antibiotics do, they kill bacteria. Hopefully whichever strain it is that’s making you ill.
But inevitably they kill other bacteria as well. The good bacteria unluckily alongside. Antibiotics don’t know how to tell the difference.
Working with killers
So be aware, when your doctor prescribes antibiotics, she knows she’s prescribing a killer.
A pretty momentous decision when you realise that our bodies are more bacteria than human. We might think we’re in charge, but it’s the 90% bacteria colonised inside us that call the shots.
Which means that clobbering a few million bacteria unintentionally might be more hazardous than it seems. Collateral damage with sometimes serious consequences. Suicide option 1.
Gut bacteria usually take the hit, so that’s where the trouble starts. How many of us haven’t complained of nausea or diarrhoea while taking antibiotics?
Sometimes it’s worse than that – and unexpected. Torn Achilles tendon (levaquin), mood instability (fluoroquinolone derivatives), bruising and bleeding (augmentin) or eczema, wheezing, and asthma in children under two (all types).
Not good, when you remember that gut bacteria are there to process digestion, create proteins, regulate the immune system and many other functions.
Then there’s the damage you can’t see, but there’s plenty of evidence.
Antibiotics somehow suppress the control that tells us when to stop eating (leptin hormone). Even more critical, they cause the digestion bacteria to extract more nutrients from food than they should. Energy is over-absorbed instead of passing as waste, so the body stores it as fat.
The slippery slope to obesity. Suicide option 2.
Yes, the gut recovers from an antibiotic hit – likened by some researchers to releasing a hydrogen bomb. But it never comes back 100% to the way it was.
Some bacteria types can regenerate. Others, the rarer kind, might disappear altogether – and whatever their function was, is lost. Which seems to be what happens with putting on weight. Obese people find it next to impossible to get the weight off – their stomachs are jammed at full throttle.
Boosted weight gain
Which explains why antibiotics are used as growth boosters in agriculture. In quantities that boggle the mind. 240,000 tonnes a year currently and set to rise nearly 70% in the next 15 years.
The growth boosting and weight gain is truly phenomenal. From egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks – or from new-born calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years. All achieved by low sub-therapeutic doses added regularly to animal feed.
Which means we get the same low dose of growth boosters as well. We eat them, we ingest the antibiotics in their systems – even though antibiotic additives are withdrawn from feed by law for a set period before going to market.
They’re still laced with them because their bodies work the same way ours do. Remember how antibiotics make our stomachs over-absorb nutrients? Well most livestock animals only absorb around 20% of the food value they chew.
The rest is excreted as manure – to enrich the soil and be taken up by plants. To leach down into the water table too, out into our rivers and into our water supply. And folded back to the animals in the grass they graze, or the soy, maize or whatever in their feed.
In everything we eat
Which also means everything we eat or drink is laced with antibiotics too – meat or veg. Some of them added to boost plant growth and control blight – but most ingested directly or indirectly from the fertile soil.
Waiting for us to come along and innocently nosh it, thinking that a vegetarian diet will save us from the perils of eating meat.
Which brings us back to obesity – if not already triggered by medicine, then activated drip-drip, by the daily intake with every meal. And it’s happening too.
Look around. Already two thirds of UK adults are overweight or obese – and a third of children. The fat epidemic is upon us – quite independently of pizzas, burgers and sugary drinks. Keep up there, Jamie – this is important.
And what does obesity bring? A long, slow decline as the body subsides into complications – asthma, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer. A one-way ticket to long term misery. Suicide option 3.
Doctors recognise the epidemic – a time-bomb set to swamp the NHS as us fatties deteriorate into long-term repeat patients. They’ve got their hands full with a more immediate crisis though – antimicrobial resistance.
Rise of the superbugs
The miracle live-savers we trust antibiotics are, are fast becoming useless as bacteria adapt and become immune – turning into superbugs. Right now, today, there’s hardly a drug in the cupboard that bacteria haven’t found a way to resist.
MRSA, acinetobacter baumannii, CRKP, e.coli, ESBL, NDM-1, pseudomonas aeruginosa, streptococcus are all bugs that have learnt – and create genes that teach other bugs how survive too. Suicide option 4.
Which means, when you come down to it, that all antibiotics are only temporary. They might last two years, they might last ten. But sooner or later, bacteria will learn how to survive whatever we throw at them – and we’ll go back to being vulnerable.
Because you can’t beat bacteria. Don’t forget, we’re 90% bacteria ourselves. And they’re the most successful life form the world has ever seen – learning to survive for billions and billions of years – among the very first living things.
So the big thing that doctors are worried about is when ALL antibiotics fail altogether. Because then modern medicine falls apart. No more heart transplants, hip replacements or caesarean births – we’re back to the Dark Ages, our failsafe is gone.
The day when that happens is hurtling towards us too. With animals gulping down 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics a year, bacteria are getting plenty of opportunity to try, try, try until they succeed at finding a way to survive them. Superbugs are on the rise.
So ban antibiotics
Big pressure is mounting, among doctors and health gurus, to have antibiotics banned from agriculture altogether. Fat hope of that – quite literally.
Thanks to antibiotic growth boosters, world population now is THREE times the size it was since they were first introduced. So is food production – off the same-sized planet. Banning them would cut food production, triggering worldwide famine and two thirds of us would die from starvation. Suicide option 5.
Just possibly though, bacteria will do the job for us.
Antimicrobial resistance doesn’t only sick superbugs on humans. It sicks them on animals too. Our miracle drugs will stop working on them, same as us. So they will die anyway. And world famine will happen just the same.
Because you can’t beat bacteria, it’s like beating ourselves. We’re 90% bacteria anyway, so even trying it is suicide. A demonstration that if we can’t do things naturally, we will get zapped.
There’s too many of us anyway, so this is Nature correcting a speed wobble. Chop the numbers, we read you – and we got the email.
We’ve had the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, the super-volcano of Yellowstone, the Black Death, two World Wars, the global flu of 1918 – now it’s time for suicide.
Picture Copyright: megaflopp / 123RF Stock Photo