Antibiotics Armageddon. Are we too late for Plan B?

Survivor

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

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

Because we’re at the point where antibiotics are beginning not to work any more – and modern medicine is going critical. Straighten up and fly right, or dire things will happen.

Yeah, but…

Out with the big guns

We’d better believe it. According to our top-level heavyweights, it’s time to get tough. With big-stick tactics for getting it wrong.

Like naughty GPs, prescribing antibiotics without verifying there’s a need. Or naughty farmers, dosing livestock with antibiotics, just to fatten them up.

Haven’t they heard of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)? Don’t they realise that they’re helping dangerous bacteria develop immunity to the drugs we treat them with? That superbugs will soon be untouchable and antibiotics will be useless?

Yeah, some Plan B. Not really a plan at all.

Ultimate survivors

Because it’s a fact of life that BACTERIA ALWAYS SURVIVE – and have done successfully for billions and billions of years. Which is why they’re possibly the most successful life-forms on the planet – able to withstand super-hot and super-cold, super-acid, super-dry, super-salty and super-pressure.

And we dare to think an itty-bitty antibiotic designed by humans is going to stop them.

Seriously?

Maybe hold them back for a few years, lulling us into a sense of false security.

Like hey, remember penicillin?

The original miracle wonder-drug. It saved lives for 12 years before the superbugs got wise to it. Staphylococcus in 1940 – cousin and relative of today’s superbug, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which itself took just 2 years to get in on the act.

But like we said, BACTERIA ALWAYS SURVIVE. They might take a few generations to do it – twenty minutes at a time – so for penicillin, that’s 315,360 generations. Zap – you can’t beat the numbers.

Because, surprise, surprise – among other skills, bacteria are actually able to “teach” each other immunity, passing on their resistance skills to even unrelated types

Yeah? And we think we’re so smart. Because while they’re doing it, the rest of our wonder-drugs store cupboard is rapidly emptying. We don’t wise up, do we?

Antibiotics: crashed and burned

Tetracycline lasted 9 years, until 1959; erythromycin 15 years; gentamycin 12 years; vancomycin 16 years; ceftazidime 2 years; levofloxacin not even 1 year; and ceftaroline the same.

And now colistin, our antibiotic of last resort – the one we turn to when all others have failed – can be resisted by bacteria too.

Get the message? The cupboard is bare.

Which means within our lifetime, without being able to control infection using antibiotics, even routine medical procedures such as caesarean births, hip replacements and heart bypasses will become impossible.

Which is why Lord Jim O’Neill, AMR Review chairman for the Prime Minister, insists that doctors should only issue antibiotics against medically verified proof that they are necessary.

Lord Jim also advocates that drug companies should be strong-armed into developing new antibiotics, to keep ahead of the rising tide of resistance, with cash money incentives if necessary.

Yeah, that would be good.

Mega-buck drugs companies

Especially when Lord Jim’s own review paper identifies that drug companies are currently producing up to 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics a year. Something must be wrong with their pricing structure if they can’t finance new product development out of volumes like that.

OK, so from Lord Jim’s perspective, unless we come up with an alternative, antibiotics will stop working altogether and we’re all going to die. Antibiotics Armageddon.

And that’s just for humans.

Except around 70% of antibiotics world-wide are used to support high intensity factory farming of animals – livestock for food production. 240,000 tonnes, remember?

Now ask yourself, so antibiotic resistance is dangerous to us humans, right? But the animals are only bred for food, their lifespans are very short, not really a problem, hey?

Wrong, big time.

Living hell

Those animals are farmed so intensively, antibiotics are essential to keeping them alive at all. Stressful, over- crowded quarters, unsanitary conditions – in astronomically unbelievable numbers now vital to support the three-fold population explosion of  humans since antibiotics were first discovered.

Food for 3 times as many humans – OFF THE SAME AVAILABLE LAND AREA – in just 50 years.

So what happens if antibiotic resistance hits the animals?

Well, exactly like us, they can’t survive either. Nor can they breed successfully to produce more.

Which very quickly means no more food, no more manure for intensive plant crops – a massive shortfall to bring famine to at least 5 billion people – the difference between the 2½ billion we were 50 years ago and the 7½ billion we are today.

Antibiotic damage

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

Antibiotic damage is another.

You see, the big thing about antibiotics in food production is they fatten animals up fast. Four years of growth is telescoped into six months – which is how come farmers are able to feed 3 times as many humans – OFF THE SAME AVAILABLE LAND AREA in just 50 years.

And we eat those same animals, so we consume the same antibiotics they do in the food they provide – either directly through daily dosing feedstuffs, or picked up from their manure by plants fed to them as basic forage.

Uh huh. Which means we get fat too – the antibiotics do the same thing to us. Take a look around – yup, now you know why two thirds of all adults are overweight or obese.

Except our lifespans are not the same as theirs – two years and slaughtered, ready for market.

We go on for decades and decades. Getting fatter and fatter – coming down with all the ailments that obesity triggers – diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma. All of them massive killers, accounting for way more than the 50,000 a year in the US and UK who currently die of antibiotic-resistant superbugs – like close on 30 million.

You begin to get the picture?

Billions of deaths

Either directly or indirectly, our miracle wonder-drugs are going to be responsible for BILLIONS of deaths. And they are already doing it NOW.

A, we conk out now from some horrible resistant superbug. Or B, we take thirty years to die, getting worse every day from cancer or heart disease.

Thank you, antibiotics! Our killer lifesavers. Like smoking, only worse.

And bacteria are only one type of pathogenic microbes. AMR means antimicrobial resistance, right? All microbe types. So where’s our plan for viruses, fungi, archaea, protozoa, or algae?

Well the heck with Lord Jim, the best plan is right in our bathrooms.

Fighting back

Soap and water. To wash the bugs off our hands – their easiest way into our bodies – through the sensitive tissue of our eyes, nose and mouth.

Clean hands, no germs.

Kinda important when you consider that unconsciously, we touch our faces 2,000 – 3,000 times a day.

Clean hands, good.

Except now, don’t touch anything, because every single thing around us – including the air – is full of viruses and bacteria.

Shock, horror! At any second, we could be exposed to life-threatening pathogens that could be the end of us. Even a paper cut could lead to sepsis – and that’s the end of us.

Except we do have a second line of defence beyond soap and water – and pretty soon you’re going to see it in operation everywhere.

Ionised hydrogen peroxide. Misted up into the air from a mobile Hypersteriliser machine. A mild eco-friendly all-natural chemical – the body makes its own for germ-fighting – composed of only water and oxygen. Dynamically dispersed in all directions by electrostatic charge – the same charge that actively reaches out to grab viruses and bacteria, oxidising them to nothing.

No germs, the place is sterile.

No need for antibiotics, you’re not exposed to anything.

Prevention is better than cure.

Not exactly a Plan B, because it won’t fight infections already in the body – Lord Jim & Co need to focus on that.

But a helluva lot better than nothing.

Picture Copyright: ersler / 123RF Stock Photo

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Originally posted on 16 February 2019 @ 7:35 pm

Originally posted on 16 February 2019 @ 7:35 pm

Funding for AMR research? Ask the companies who produce 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics every year

Stubborn manager
Can’t afford funds for research?
Pull the other one

That’s right, 240,000 tonnes. The amount of antibiotics used worldwide every year.

More than enough for a 25mg dose to every man, woman and child on the planet. Overuse or what?

Overuse – and abuse

But not just for medical purposes. Not just for saving lives and fighting infection.

Most of these antibiotics are pumped daily into farm livestock – ostensibly to keep them healthy, in reality to bulk them up for market – to accelerate their growth so they’re four times the size in a quarter of the time.

Amoxicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline, erythromycin, vancomycin, you name it – all types that we’re familiar with and have probably taken ourselves at some stage – all get fed to the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle and 1 billion sheep and pigs that feed the world.

Together they account for around 75% of the total 240,000 tonnes world antibiotics output.

You got that right, three quarters of the antibiotics the world chomps through every year are for non-medical use. No wonder we have a problem with antimicrobial resistance.

Bacteria always win

No wonder that savvy bacteria – one of the most successful and longest-surviving life forms of all time – have developed ways to overcome whatever we throw at them. With that kind of volume, they’ve even learned over the years how pass their immunity on to others.

It’s now perfectly possible for a doctor to begin treatment for an illness never seen before, only to find it already has a resistance to every drug in the medicine cupboard. Even colistin and carbapenem, normally held in reserve as drugs of last resort, have been found to be ineffective.

Well sure, global demand for colistin in agriculture was expected to reach 11,942 tonnes per annum by the end of 2015 – generating an income of US$229·5 million – and rising to 16,500 tonnes by 2021.

Result, our defences are breached, there’s no more left in the cupboard.

Doctors are now fighting a rear-guard action and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is spelling the total collapse of modern medicine. No more heart bypasses or hip replacements, no more caesarean births – without effective infection control, this is the end.

The world in denial

So all of a sudden, the clamour is on to find new antibiotics. Not 240,000 tonnes of old ones.

Lord Jim O’Neill, AMR adviser to the Prime Minister, has even suggested that drug companies should be forced into researching them – a big stick to be sweetened by cash handouts and incentives if necessary.

Nice one, Jim. Except with 240,000 tonnes regular output, those companies are not exactly strapped for cash.

At 20p for a single 25mg dose of say, amoxicillin, that’s £1.9 billion they’re raking in every year, just from their ka-chunk-ka-chunk machines going round the clock to keep the farmers happy.

In the meantime, resistant bacteria are growing all the time – and getting away with murder.

Which means throwing money at developing new antibiotics is a losing battle anyway. Bacteria always win – so it could be only months, or a best a few years, before the latest wonder-drug also winds up being useless.

And what happens when AMR spreads to shut down agriculture as well? 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle and 1 billion sheep and pigs suddenly peg off – and the next thing is world famine.

You see, nobody wants to face the elephant in the room. That antibiotics are over. Lifesavers while they lasted, but now they’re finished. Even beginning to kill more of us than they’re saving.

What the money needs to be spent on – agricultural profits and cash incentives combined – is a serious REPLACEMENT. Abandoning antibiotics altogether and developing alternatives like bacteriophages – harnessing VIRUSES to destroy pathogenic bacteria.

Rediscover hygiene

Alongside that, we need to jack up our cleanliness levels across the board. Without antibiotics as a safety net for careless and dirty habits, proper hygiene becomes essential. Washing hands whenever possible – removing all health hazards.

Which means sterilising our workplaces too. To protect ourselves from each other as much as from germs. Schools, hospitals, public buildings, restaurants, entertainment places all need the same treatment. The best way to avoid infection is not to expose ourselves to germs in the first place.

Money, money money. It’s a world wide crisis.

Let’s hope those drug companies wake up in time and stop worrying about their 240,000 tonnes.

AMR can wipe them out just as quickly as us ordinary folk.

Picture Copyright: catalin205 / 123RF Stock Photo

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.

Picture Copyright: mihtiander / 123RF Stock Photo