Tag Archives: resistance

Why aren’t we warned that antibiotics can make us fat?

Doc holding ABX
Not the lifesavers we think they are – they’re why we’re fat, and why we’re going to die in twenty years’ time

We get warned about other issues.

About antibiotic resistance, for instance.

That bacteria are rapidly becoming immune to our cure-all wonder drugs.

That soon doctors will not be able to treat even everyday infections. Superbugs will have won the day and medicine will return to the Dark Ages.

An antibiotic apocalypse

Yes, very true. And it’s right that we’re warned. An “antibiotic apocalypse” as Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England calls it. A threat on par with terrorism and climate change.

She’s not wrong. Except that alarm about antibiotics failure is the big stick medics are using to obtain funding to develop new ones.

Government money, that is. Drug companies won’t finance it themselves – there’s no money in it. Widespread resistance means new drugs must be used as little as possible. They’re kept for emergencies when the older drugs fail.

So the whole business of developing a new drug and bringing it to market as soon as possible no longer has legs. Bacteria can become resistant in as little as six months, and the whole investment is down the tubes.

So the idea is to push the scare tactic.

Shake the government tree for around £890 million of taxpayer’s money. An incentive for some developer to take a gamble on a new product with an unmet need. Basically a bribe.

Not going to happen, is it?

Too public, too obvious, and too fraught with failure.

The 240,000 tonne money maker

Besides, why should a drug company take risks on new products when they’re already making a fortune on the old ones?

No, no, not as medicines. As growth promoters in agriculture. Because since researchers first noticed it in the 1950s, antibiotics have become the most phenomenal growth boosters worldwide.

In the last twenty years particularly, antibiotics in animal feed have reached industrial levels. 240,000 tonnes currently and set to rise another 70% by 2030. Prompting the rise of the factory farm or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). Vital support for rocketing world population, which itself has risen threefold to 7½ billion.

Yeah, so new drugs? Forget it. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk factories are working flat out all they can to keep pace with demand for the old ones. Sorry, no time for research, too busy making money. 240,000 tonnes worth of it.

And why weren’t we warned? Because it had nothing to do with us? Has nobody noticed we’re getting fatter?

Yes, they have. And they’re all keeping schtum about why.

Super-duper growth boosters

You see, twenty years is the same time scale in which our horrendous obesity epidemic has reared up. Today, two thirds of adults are either overweight or obese –  so are a third of our kids.

And all of that time we’ve been eating from food sources deliberately laced with antibiotics to boost growth. From egg to roasting chicken in six weeks. From new born calf to Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.

On top of which manure from the same animals is used to enrich soil and boost plant growth. So that everything we eat, animal or vegetable, contains residual antibiotics. Every mouthful we take includes traces of the most successful growth booster of all time.

We ourselves are all eating antibiotic fatteners!

Uh huh. So why aren’t we warned?

Why aren’t we told that the reason we’re fat is not junk food, or sugary drinks, or a low exercise lifestyle?

Not natural gluttons

In thousands of years, the human body has regulated itself according to conditions. Wasting away in famine, yes. But seldom ballooning out in times of plenty. And certainly never in an epidemic like we have now.

So why aren’t we warned that just like animals, antibiotics send our food demands into overdrive? That they make appetites insatiable? And that just like animals, antibiotics make our systems absorb too much? Extracting too much nutrition and making too little waste?

We’re not naturally gluttons. Not naturally addicted to high octane, quick energy food and drink – which is what we’re accused of.

But that is what we have become. Our gut bacteria twisted by antibiotics into never being satisfied and always being hungry. Always on the lookout for a quick hit for our induced addiction.

Because pigging out on lettuce leaves will just not crack it. We’re strictly on the mainline stuff. Burgers, chips, kebabs, pizza, ice cream, chocolate, cake – all the good Mary Berry things. And all the no-nos on Jamie Oliver’s list.

Fat and fatter, that’s us.

Yet never once are we warned, despite the evidence on food farms worldwide. Though doctors already know that antibiotic medicines at a young age frequently trigger obesity by four or five.

We get blamed, it’s our fault. And our indulgent lifestyle that’s pushing us further into obesity. To the long-term killer consequences of diabetes, asthma, cancer and heart disease.

Thought antibiotics were lifesavers? We should have been warned. Made aware of a health hazard, just like cigarettes. With big bold death notices on the front of every box.

They might rescue us today – from a chest infection or surviving a heart transplant – if the bacteria don’t become resistant first.

Dead, or dying

But twenty years down the line we get the bill. A bulbous hunk of blubber on intravenous drips and breathing oxygen. Going down for the last time because of something we never knew was happening to us.

We never were – and we aren’t now.

Why aren’t we warned?

Picture Copyright: khamidulin / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2017-01-25 15:14:15.

The headlines say “Antibiotics-free meat”. Yeah, good luck with that

Woman thumbs down for news
Good news for PR – bad news for the 5 billion of us who could go hungry

It’s a nice idea, but “antibiotics-free” is not going to happen any time soon.

Yeah sure, the farmers are going to stop adding antibiotics to feedstuffs to fatten animals up ready for market.

To stop antibiotics altogether unless animals are sick – which they are a lot of the time because of the way they’re housed.

Ever guessed what it’s like to be living on one of those mass produced factory farms?

OK, so no antibiotics to be added to food stuffs – because as the story says, these antibiotics are entering our bodies, they’re already in the food chain.

Bigger than superbugs

Uh huh.

And the panic is that higher volumes of these antibiotics lead to more and superbugs – infections that attack our bodies and can’t be treated by our wonder drugs. 50,000 deaths a year in the UK and US alone, and climbing .

Good luck with that too – because when we open our eyes wider, that’s the least of our worries.

Antibiotics fatten up animals, right? And they’re already entering our bodies as part of the food chain. Which means antibiotics fatten US up too.

And they’re working – just look at our national obesity figures. Two-thirds of all adults are already overweight or obese.  Well on the way to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and others – a combined total of 30 million deaths and climbing.

Yeah, so antibiotics-free meat will stop all that, right?

We wish.

In the poo and staying there

Because we’re more deeply in the poo than we realise.

See, the farmers might stop ADDING antibiotics to the feedstuffs they give their animals. But antibiotics are ALREADY in there anyway – in the actual plant material itself, the soya, the maize meal, the grass, the whatever.

Some of it is from antibiotics administered directly to PLANTS. Just like animals, plants respond to antibiotic growth boosting.

Or sometimes antibiotics are there to combat blight, mould and other plant ailments. With growth boost as a side bet.

Most of all though, plants ingest antibiotics from animal poo – the same stuff that is collected and returned to enrich the soil as manure. Or already in the ground from previous fertilising and absorbed through the roots. And even in the ground water, seeping through to springs and rivers.

And the water

That glass of water from the Thames? The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology at Wallingford measured trimethoprim, oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, cefotaxime, doxycycline, sulfamethoxazole, erythromycin, clarithromycin, ofloxacin, norfloxacin across 21 locations of the river’s catchment area.

We’re not talking small amounts either. Most animals poo out 80-90% of the nutrients they consume, Nature’s way of providing enrichment to so many living things. Which means they poo out 80-90% of the antibiotics they consume too.

And with world use of antibiotics already topping 240,000 tonnes a year and set to climb nearly 70% by 2035, that means 192,000 tonnes every year going into the ground – hefty enough to fatten 7½ billion human beings across the planet, as well as the 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle and 1 billion sheep and pigs that feed us.

Yeah, so antibiotics-free meat is not so free after all. The same animals not getting antibiotics in their feed still get a hefty dose with every mouthful, even if they’re just chewing grass.

No fix in sight

So why don’t whoever the authorities are pull the plug on antibiotics altogether?

Good question. Not a vote-catcher though.

Thanks to antibiotics, world food production zoomed from enough to support 2½ billion people 50 years ago to 7½ billion now. Pull the plug and 5 billion of us are suddenly going to go hungry.

World famine, what politician wants that?

Antibiotics-free?

If only.

Picture Copyright: lightwave / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-08-08 13:17:40.

No more life-saving with antibiotics – what do we do now?

Ophelia dead
Without antibiotics, everything around us becomes life-threatening

No life-saving because the antibiotics don’t work any more.

Ask any doctor, we’re already  living on borrowed time.

Maybe not today, or even tomorrow – but one day soon, we’re looking at total failure.

Antibiotic resistance, see? The bugs are too smart for the drugs we throw at them.

We’re better off with paracetamol.

A riskier world

OK, we’re safe as long as nothing happens to us.

But Sod’s Law says it will.

Hopefully not a runaway car crash – but suddenly even a paper cut could be a disaster.  And what life-saving do we have then?

No more protection from infection.  Something goes septic on us now and the Doc will have to cut it away. Yes, risky – but our miracle-drugs can’t crack it any more.

And us with our sloppy hygiene habits – those germs will be laughing all the way to the morgue. Overnight, life-saving is way more urgent than it ever used to be.

Hygiene first

Unless – we smarten up our act and put hygiene first – recognise germs are everywhere and start being seriously clean.

Yeah, the hands have it. Big time soap and water. Except now, we need to wash slightly more than once or twice a day. Always before food. Always after the loo. And always before we touch our faces.

Plus of course, everything else needs to be scrupulously clean too. Kitchen surfaces and utensils. Anything to do with food. And our workplaces, where millions of germs thrive that we’re not even aware of.

First rule in germ warfare is infection avoidance. There’s always billions and billions of bacteria around us – viruses and fungi too. And yes, it is a war – they never give up trying to invade us.

There’s trillions of them INSIDE us too – friendly gut bacteria we actually NEED to help our bodies survive. Harmless enough where they are. But deadly in the wrong place.

Escherichia coli for example, is a bacterium that lives in our gut to aid digestion and protect us from other harmful microbes. But disease-causing strains of it, like O157:H7, disrupt body functions, triggering diarrhoea or worse. And e.coli in the bloodstream is seriously life-threatening.

Hygiene technology

So sure, washing hands and everything else becomes essential – but with no antibiotics safety-net, is still woefully short of keeping us safe.

However hard we try, we can never reach every hidey-hole, crack or crevice where germs like to lurk and breed. And pulling things out to clean underneath and behind all the time makes effective protection impossible.

Which means we need another dimension – to use our smart Twenty-First Century technology to clobber the germs we can’t get to – in a way that allows us to relax.

Enter the Hypersteriliser – a familiar sight in hospitals like the Salford Royal, South Warwickshire, or Queen Victoria in East Grinstead. Expect them soon all over the place – the most effective all-in-one total room sterilisers yet.

You do the rub and scrub. The Hypersteriliser backs up with one press-button start – removing ALL  viruses and bacteria in a room completely, oxidising them to nothing.

It works by misting up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide – electrostatically charged so it reaches everywhere – behind, underneath and on top of things, walls and ceilings too. Germs are actively grabbed and shot through with oxygen atoms, their cell structures totally destroyed.

Forty minutes later, the room is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria – 99.9999% of harmful pathogens destroyed – a Sterility Assurance Level of Log 6.

Be watchful – and live

OK, that’s your front-end germ insurance taken care of, a hyped up level of hygiene – prevention is better than cure.

From now on, you have to be more watchful too – avoid germ hazards, don’ let accidents happen to you, be super-careful around anyone sick.

Maybe not as miraculous as antibiotics, but just as life-saving BEFORE any illness gets anywhere near your body.

Picture Copyright: diy13 / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-07-21 13:20:47.

Vital wake-up call behind this year’s flu-jab flop

Ready for injection
So what’s our Plan B when the medicines don’t work?

It’s not just vital, it’s absolutely crucial. A just-in-time reminder that both viruses and bacteria are living things, exactly like us.

More to the point, they are the most successful life-forms on the planet since the dawn of time. Survivors that adapt and change to suit conditions around them. Mutating to something entirely new in just minutes

Anatomy of a disaster

Which is why the flu-jab went wrong.

Every year, the most dangerous and virulent flu viruses mutate into a new strain. Every year, medical experts develop a new vaccine to clobber them. A moving target, because the viruses keep mutating all the time. So researchers have to predict which way they will develop before they actually do. Then work like mad to produce an effective serum before the opportunity passes.

Sometimes they guess right, sometimes they don’t. The viruses zig when they were expected to zag – sending that year’s protection plans down the drain.

Guess and super-guess

Which is what happened this winter. The A(H3N2) flu strain used to make the vaccine became sidelined when the main H3 virus developed in another direction. Result, 28,189 more deaths than the previous year – and a whole witch hunt about who is responsible and why.

Except nobody’s learning, are they?

Nobody is heeding the vital message – that viruses and bacteria mutate. That no matter how damn good we think we are, these small organisms – too tiny for the eye to see – can and will mutate into new forms impervious to whatever we throw at them.

Immune to antibiotics, immune to vaccines, immune to anything any health spokesperson might say, no matter how good they look on television.

Smart bugs

Time get real.

Because it’s not just the flu-jab that’s failed, it’s a lot of other meds besides. That have failed, or are going to fail, however we try to second-guess them.

Already there’s a whole slew of antibiotics that don’t work – vital drugs that could once save our lives from anything – now not even worth their weight in second-hand toffee paper.

For instance penicillin, the original wonder cure, was discovered in 1928, but resistant staph started emerging in 1940. Same story with erythromycin, launched in 1953 – with resistant strep occurring in 1968. Or methicillin, launched in 1960 with the dreaded tyrannosaurus rex MRSA rearing its head from 1962.

Bacteria have plenty of time, they can wait.

Which means we’re possibly only months away from total antibiotics failure altogether – slightly more significant than a flu-jab that doesn’t work.

But don’t take our word for it, no less a person than Dr Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, identifies it as a threat on par with terrorism. Absolutely vital.

Microbial exit strategy

OK, so the flu-jab is a flop. Yet it shows us an out, even though it’s useless.

Because if we know the flu is coming but we have no defence, we still ought to be smart enough to avoid it. Same with any other bug, come to that – norovirus, Black Death, typhoid, Ebola.

AVOID, AVOID, AVOID. Vital self-protection.

Step One, wash hands – before and after any activity. Our fingers touch everything, often in quick succession – from filthy public loo because it’s an emergency – to Welsh Wagyu burger with onions and extra Stilton – because use a knife and fork and it will fall apart. How do you think norovirus happens?

Step Two, get rid of the germs around us. They’re always there, billions and billions of them – on every surface, in the air – we’re continually exposed, all the time.

But not if the place is sterilised. Not if the rooms we live in are sterilised free from germs before we enter. No viruses, no bacteria – zero opportunity for infection or disease.

All it takes is forty-odd minutes with a Hypersteriliser the night before. Misting up offices, classrooms, restaurants, waiting areas – everywhere with super-dry ionised hydrogen peroxide. Electrostatically charged to reach into every crack and crevice, actively grabbing at germs and destroying their cell structure.

Safe and secure

No germs, no problem, problem solved.

Which works for flu as well as any other bugs that might threaten us. No need for the jab, we’re safe.

We just have to wake up first.

Rediscover hygiene, or take our chances.

Picture Copyright: svetography / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-04-11 15:37:33.

Now it’s inevitable: total global antibiotics failure

Worried farm vet
When antibiotics stop working for animals, we’re all at risk

Inevitable as in OMG, failure as in serious.

Imagine World War Three, a Force 5 hurricane and an end-of-the-dinosaurs meteor strike all at the same time.

All caused by the weapons we use against microscopic adversaries we can’t even see – the antibiotics we use to fight pathogenic bacteria.

Busted miracles

Amazing creations, antibiotics. Enabling modern medicine work miracles every day.

Except their edge is blunting fast – as canny bacteria mutate to develop resistance to our wonder-drugs – increasingly immune to everything we throw at them.

Antimicrobial resistance or AMR, it’s called. Bacteria impervious to even heavy doses of medication – just another bump in the road to the most successful single-celled living creature of all time – the latest hiccup in 5 billion years of evolution.

Of course, AMR was always going to happen. Bacteria are ultimate survivors – able thrive at temperatures from a freezing 0⁰C to a volcanic 350⁰C – in acidity from near pure water to concentrated battery acid – and if necessary, even without oxygen.

So that messing about in a laboratory for anything except a short-term solution is futile. Alexander Fleming, father of modern antibiotics even said as much in his 1945 lecture accepting the Nobel Prize.

His concern was that the bugs could gain immunity from under-dosing – killing the weakest but allowing the strongest to escape from non-lethal quantities. And with an organism able to divide by fission into new cells in as little as 20 minutes, it was only a matter of time before bacteria found ways.

Tick, tick, tick

They certainly did. Against penicillin, discovered in 1928 with resistant staph emerging in in 1940; tetracycline, introduced in 1950 with resistant shigella in 1959; erythromycin, launched in 1953 with resistant strep occurring in 1968; methicillin in 1960 with resistance in 1962; levofloxacin in 1996 with resistance in the same year; linezolid in 2000 and resistance 2001; daptomycin in 2003 and resistance in 2004.

Today it’s even worse, with some superbugs becoming pan-resistant – responsive to NO antibiotics at all. Small wonder that Dr Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, sees AMR as a threat on the same scale as terrorism.

Except that Dame Sally is wrong on the focus, medical AMR is just the tip of the iceberg. Agriculturally, AMR is many, many times bigger – so that, short of a massive alien invasion, antibiotics resistance is quite possibly the biggest challenge ever to the human race.

Check the math.

All in the numbers

In 1950, world population was 2,557,628,654 –the biggest killers were pneumonia and TB, and ploughs on the farm were still drawn by horses.

In 2016, world population is 7,334,771,614, most diseases are completely under control and “factory farms” are highly mechanised.

300% increase in mouths to feed, but the land area to produce the necessary food is still the same. Mechanisation? Sure. GM crops? Let’s face it, farmers have been fiddling with plant breeding for yonks. But three times as much food to eat from the same space, how is that possible?

Right first time, antibiotics.

First used as a growth promoter in 1950 – and today fattening up livestock so much that round the world, 65,000 tons of agricultural antibiotics are swallowed by cows, pigs, chickens and sheep every year.

Yeah, well that’s the OTHER thing antibiotics do – they bulk up animal bodies – twice the size in half the time, on half the feed. From fresh-laid egg to a 1.5 kg supermarket chicken in six weeks – from new-born calf to a full-size Aberdeen Angus steer in one year instead of four.

Feeding the billions

Which is how come farmers can produce food enough for 7.3 billion hungry people from the same land once struggling to feed 2.5 billion.

Put in perspective, and looking at USA beef cattle production only, 1950s technology would require an additional 165 million acres to produce the same amount of beef, an area about the size of Texas – 20% of mainland America.

Or as the Yanks like to boast, 25% of the world’s beef from 10% of the world’s cattle.

It’s antibiotics make this possible – that compensate for the intensive battery-style living, the highly stressful over-crowding, the low level of hygiene from animals living on top of each other, the otherwise unavoidable breeding grounds for animal disease and infection.

Antibiotics in feedstuffs bulk animals up – and also keep them healthy in impossible conditions.

But animals are living metabolisms too – and just like us, the bacteria inside them develop resistance to the constant flow of antibiotics going through their bodies. Billions of times more likely than with humans – there are billions more of them.

Pan-resistance everywhere – antibiotics failure on a colossal scale.

Which means the day is coming when animals fall ill from the living environments they’re in – and with antibiotics no longer able to protect them, disease goes through their thousands and thousands like wildfire. Round the world, other food animals pick up the contagion, sicken and die.

Plants too, suffer the same antibiotics resistance, succumbing to the many types of blight and other disease that fruit, vegetable and grain crops are prone to.

Hunger and famine

Without food, 7.5 billion start feeling hungry.

Never mind AMR, it’s FAMINE that’s going to get us. With no way out, except for a lucky few – in a world surrounded by dying animals and vegetation.

Impossible, surely?

You mean inevitable. Antibiotics resistance is a fact. In medical circles, it is already an emergency. And AMR is already widely reported across agriculture. Total failure is already on the cards.

OK, so several billion of us aren’t going to make it.

Those that do will have to live in a world without antibiotics. So will the animals, out in the open where they belong, not cooped up in jail for us humans. And for every living thing there’ll be no more miracle drugs.

Just as 100 years ago, a simple scratch or mouthful of iffy food could be the last of us. So it’s back to Victorian-style carbolic and scrub, meticulous hand-washing hygiene before and after every activity as our first line of protection.

We will certainly need it. After seven decades of constant antibiotics ourselves – in our medicine and from the foods we eat – our immune systems are weaker than they ever were, less robust, less resilient – our internal gut bacteria ravaged by the same antibiotics supposed to be so beneficial.

Get out of jail free

Which means hygiene around us will be critical too. At home, in our workplaces, in all the enclosed spaces where we group together, vulnerable to each other’s germs and the normal germs on everything around us.

Fortunately, a Hypersteriliser can keep our surroundings sterile – making them safe with misted hydrogen peroxide that kills all viruses and bacteria by oxidation. Kinda like external antibiotics, but without the downside.

And yes, we will fight back. We won’t have antibiotics, but we will have phages – go-getter body VIRUSES that attack harmful bacteria – a therapy that has been used in the former Soviet Union for even longer than antibiotics. Not back to the future, but forward to the past.

We SHALL overcome.

Picture Copyright: goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally posted 2016-02-19 17:34:36.

Why our medicines make us sick and how to fix it

Exercise sunset
You are what you eat –
but do you know what you’re eating?

The way our grandparents keep banging on about it, you’d swear they were tough as nails.

“Didn’t get sick with that in my day, you youngsters are wimps.”

When we was young

Yeah, thanks for that. Doesn’t look like that now though – they get just as sick as we do.

Er, except they have a point.

There are all kinds of sicknesses now they didn’t have back then. New on the radar – nobody hardly heard of them fifty years ago.

Hello Legionnaire’s disease, toxic shock syndrome, Lyme disease, campylobacter, escherichia coli, vibrio cholerae, helicobacter, erlichiosis, Bartonellosis, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantavirus, HIV, cryptosporidiosis, cyclyspora, fungal diseases and spongiform encephalopathy, just to name a few. Sick and super-sick.

And how about allergies? Asthma, allergic rhinitis, peanut butter, lactose intolerance, coeliac disease, yeast, shellfish – all of them chronic, highly unpleasant – and in increasing cases, life-threatening.

Yeah OK, we don’t live the same as we did fifty years ago. People smoked like chimneys, air travel was a once-in-a-lifetime luxury – and apart from fish and chips, fast-food was a fledgling that’ll-never-work fancy.

Miracle magic

We also didn’t have the wonder-drugs – antibiotics. So amazing they wiped out a whole slew of illnesses and infection sources overnight. Doctors could perform miracle surgery – heart transplants, hip replacements, rebuild faces, reattach lost limbs, do the impossible.

Now they’re used for everything.

Got a problem? Hit it with antibiotics. Even, would you believe, for non-essential conditions like acne.

You got it – use and over-use. Fifty years of chucking them down our throats – no wonder bacteria have found ways to build up a resistance. Suddenly our wonder-drugs are not working so good any more.

Scarier still, right now all our head cheese numero uno medics are reckoning they’re going to conk out altogether. What the heck do we do when they stop working?

But that’s not why we’re getting these new illnesses. It gets way, way worse than that.

The answer lies in the soil

Because with all the wow-factor of antibiotics, farmers latched onto them too. To protect livestock crowded together in muddy, unhealthy conditions. And to fatten them up.

One of the big plus side-effects of antibiotics in feedstuffs is that animals bulk up faster on less food – getting to market quicker, at a higher price. Bingo!

Which means for fifty years, antibiotics have been used in food production big time – on a massive industrial scale, currently at 65,000 tons a year world-wide – and set to more than double in the next ten years.

Wow, amazing! All the world’s food supply problems solved.

With the totally predictable but unrecognised result that antibiotics are now in everything we eat.

Certainly in all meat, because they’re in the animal foodstuff. In plants too, because animal manure is the most productive natural manure. And in the soil, leaching down from the manure. Into the aquifers and watercourses – pretty well every river and stream in the country.

Uh huh.

One brutal and awkward fact staring at us right there.

The everyday dose

Whoever we are, man, woman or child – anywhere throughout the UK – WE ALL CONSUME ANTIBIOTICS DAILY as part of our regular diet. Carnivores, vegetarians – no exceptions. They’re even in the water we drink.

How can we tell?

Well here’s another change that’s happened over the last fifty years.

We’re all getting fat.

Check your own waistline. Right now two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese.

Oh yummy. Which puts us all in line for heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cancers, depression and anxiety.

The medics reckon it’s sedentary lifestyles, low exercise and high fat diets. Yeah, maybe.

But the elephant in the room is what farmers have already discovered – and been mainlining into their animals for fifty years.

Antibiotics make metabolisms bulk up. “Antimicrobial growth promoters” they call them – basically super-fatteners – like the wicked witch used on naughty children in fairy tales.

And traces of antibiotics have been in every mouthful everyone of us has eaten for the last fifty years. Exactly like we’re being fattened up for market.

Hey, fatty!

Yeah, the things are banned for farming in the EU and have been since 2006. Except here in Britain either the message hasn’t got through, or government and big bucks are conveniently looking the other way.

Want evidence?

Fifteen odd years ago, the family returned here to UK from a near life-time in South Africa. Within two years, our athletic sylph-like figures had metamorphosed into “charmingly chubby”. No, we weren’t eating different foods – just UK-sourced stuff we’d never had before.

And fifteen years ago, South Africa wasn’t using “antimicrobial growth promoters” to the same saturation level they are now. A chicken was just chicken – and a trip to Nando’s didn’t set you up to ballooning into a porker.

Which underlines the fact that antibiotics really do create major changes in the body.

Our innards are full of benevolent bacteria – 100 trillion of them doing the heavy work of digesting, producing proteins and helping to manage immune systems, while we park off with the Xbox on the sofa – Call of Duty Black Ops 3, or something equally important.

Immunity school

It’s these bacteria that our Mums teach when we’re in the womb and while we’re nursing –building our defences for all kinds of diseases we’ll face later in life. The same bacteria learn how to create immunity in our formative years too. Those days eating mud have a purpose.

Thing is though, that we don’t face the same diseases we were set up for in our childhood. Our water supply is pure, so there’s no germs there. We have inside loos and hot water, so we’re a lot cleaner than we used to be.

Uh huh. An immune system with nothing to do – so it goes rogue. Triggers false alarms like allergies when there’s no real threat. A crisis out of nothing. Net result, we’re less resistant than we were fifty years ago. Grandpa was right, us youngsters are wimps.

All these newly antibiotic resistant illnesses don’t help either. MRSA, salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, gonorrhoea and e.coli. Even that Victorian illness TB – almost completely off the scope in UK – has found a way to make a comeback.

Yeah, weaker than our Swinging Sixties oldies – and more at hazard because the wonder-drugs don’t work any more.

Hike up our hygiene

Which leaves one line of defence that’s now essential if we’re going to survive. Hike up our hygiene levels so that harmful pathogens can’t get us – we’re not just clean, our surroundings are sterile. No bacteria, no risk, job done.

Which means two things.

Washing our hands before and after we do anything like eat or hit the loo – so there’s never any germs on them.

And misting our surroundings up with a Hypersteriliser, so there’s no germs around us either – particularly in the air – they’re oxidised to nothing by ionised hydrogen peroxide. Bacteria gone, viruses too, safe and sterile.

OK, now we can stop with the antibiotics, though the farmers have still got an issue. Better hygiene all round should sort it – why shouldn’t pigs and poultry be protected sterile-safe like we are?

Oh yes, and no more obesity either – though count on it, diets will still remain a fad. Yes, still the gym, unless we’re sick of it. Yes, still the carrot juice.

But we don’t all have to be Size 12 to look fit.

Originally posted 2015-11-24 15:23:15.

Quick! Wash your hands before you kill someone!

Dirty hands
When antibiotics don’t work – all that’s between you and killer germs

Alarmist?

Well something’s got to grab our attention. And fast.

Because maybe not today, but some time soon, what’s on our hands may well kill someone. And that person could easily be you.

The antibiotics debacle

Two reasons, both triggered by antibiotics.

One, they don’t work any more. Not all of them, but a heck of a lot – enough to terrify most senior doctors.

Wonder-drugs fifty years ago, today they could be sugar pills. High expectations, but zero performance – pretty well useless. Too much overuse worldwide and the bugs we use them against have become resistant.

Yes, overuse. Particularly by agriculture. Every year more than 65,000 tons of antibiotics are put into feedstuffs – to make beef, pork and poultry animals bulk up for market. And you thought they were just for medicines.

Superbugs

OK, so how about these superbugs they don’t work against any more?

Heard of MRSA? Well add pneumonia, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli to the everyday list – with a whole stack more queueing behind. Any one of which can do you down without urgent and careful treatment.

So what’s that got to do with dirty hands?

Easy. Antibiotics are our Number One defence against infection.

Cut a dirty hand and it’s antibiotics that protect us from tetanus. Without a quick dose of tetanus immunoglobulin (actually a vaccine), expect convulsions and severe muscle spasms strong enough to fracture the spine – a very, very unpleasant way to die.

Bye bye surgery

That goes for any cut too, not just accidents. Like surgical incisions. Without antibiotics, any surgical procedure becomes just about impossible. Infection is inevitable and patients will die. And that goes for everything from hip replacements to triple bypasses.

Without the wonder-drugs, there’s only one other way to minimise infection with any certainty. By making sure everything is so totally clean, there aren’t any bugs on it. Yes, by washing hands.

And not just by doctors, but by every one of us. Whenever we think of it, over and over again.

Because now we can’t take risks any more. Take a chance, eat with dirty hands, have a stupid accident, face any physical challenge.

Bye bye hospital

WE’RE the first line of defence now, not the doctors. Our own personal hygiene, our own protective washing techniques. Which means staying the heck out of trouble of course, so nothing ever happens to us. Couch potatoes.

Because reality is that hospital will increasingly become the end of the line. No more antibiotics, no more last-ditch hope. Forgetting to wash your hands is a one-way ticket – feet first, to eternity.

And make no mistake, we really are in danger. Because the way most of us are so casual about hygiene, we don’t stand a snowball’s against a serious bug. We don’t wash hands properly, or for long enough. Or, let’s be honest, ever at all.

Now the second thing about antibiotics. The double-whammy waiting to clobber us.

More than fifty years we’ve been using them. 600,000 tons every year – symbolically, the same mass as one of the twin towers at the World Trade Centre that collapsed on 9/11. And potentially even more deadly.

Timid new world

You see, it’s not just bacteria that have changed and mutated over the years, becoming stronger and more resistant. It’s ourselves, probably gobbling down a course of antibiotics at least five times a year. Except we’re not getting stronger, we’re going backwards.

And it’s not just our medicines that contain antibiotics, it’s the food we guzzle as well. A steadily rising threshold of antibiotics in pretty well every kind of meat product – and vegetables as well, from recycled natural waste going into the ground.

More than fifty years of it, continuously every day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacking – is it any surprise we have weaknesses and deficiencies that didn’t exist a generation ago?

You see it’s an awkward fact of life that our own bodies NEED bacteria in order to survive. Millions and millions of years ago we went into partnership with them to do the heavy lifting for digesting food, producing protein and even stabilising our immune systems.

We, aliens

Bacteria colonies in our own bodies outnumber our own human cells by more than 10 to 1. We’re actually aliens. Which is why we have over 100 trillion bacteria naturally resident in our gut. Dropping an antibiotic in amongst that lot is about the same as releasing an atom bomb – killing bacteria left, right and centre, that’s how they work.

Which is why we often get side-effects like being ill all over again – vomiting, cramps, diarrhoea, or worse. And in one way or another, we’ve been continuously bombarding our systems with antibiotics all the way since birth.

Not good for our immune systems – especially in the formative years from one to three, when our bodies are learning which bacteria are good and which are bad – and how to fight against them. That’s what all the eating mud and stuff is about. Equipping ourselves with protection.

Except we don’t eat mud any more, do we? We don’t live out in the country, we’re probably in a tenth-floor walk up. There is no mud – and our mothers would find it repulsive anyway. Which means our bacteria either choreograph that bit out, or develop in different directions.

Mutant beings

Changes in our metabolism and we never even know that they exist.

Take allergies for instance. Twenty years ago nobody had ever heard of urticaria, or coeliac disease, or anaphylactic shock. Yes they existed, but not on the everyday radar. Common as muck now – the muck we didn’t have when we were babies.

Fifty years on and our diet has changed too. We eat different foods, with different values – and all the time the antibiotic level is creeping up higher and higher.

Uh huh. And our resistance is going downer and downer. Today our bodies have conditions nobody even considered before.

Think obesity is something to do with diet? Oh yes, it is – but we can’t change it now. Not seriously. How else could a third of us be so suddenly like that? We’ve bred it into ourselves. Our internal bacteria are a whole new breed that live with low exercise, artificial foods and a high level of antibiotics.

Try running it off at the gym all you like – we’re getting to where we’re so genetically altered, that fat is normal. Yeah, we shouldn’t pig out on the kilo box of Quality Street – but there’s min chance we’ll get to Size 12 without them either.

Lower resistance.

But the same daily challenge of living in a world surrounded by billions and billions of bacteria and viruses – many of them friendly, many of them neutral – and many of them downright deadly.

Wash them away whenever you think of it – sterilise the living area around you with hydrogen peroxide mist. Every day, the battle goes on – and we’re not necessarily winning.

OK, now it’s serious. Keep at it with the soap and water, or someone’s going to die.

Don’t let it be you.

Originally posted 2015-11-11 14:02:01.

Antibiotics bullies? It’s back to fixing infections with blades

Doctor with scalpel
If antibiotics don’t work, we’d better up our hygiene levels sharpish

It’s happening now, at a surgery near you.

Doctors intimidated, patients extorting prescriptions for antibiotics.

Self-med madness

Not because they need them, but because they think they do. For a cough or a cold. Ailments that antibiotics were never meant to cure. Self-prescription gone mad – and doctors strong-armed into making it happen.

Probably the most dangerous thing anybody ever did. Doting Mums, worried Dads – playing with fire that will come back to burn all of us before the decade is out.

Because antibiotics are NOT the cure-all that everybody thinks they are.

Not any more – and never for situations they weren’t designed for.

You see, using them for everything has blunted their edge.

So many bacteria have developed immunity to them, they’re powerless and useless. And viruses were always resistant to them anyway.

Which means the next time any of us goes for surgery or needs attention after an accident – it won’t be drugs fighting the infection.

First cut is the deepest

It will be surgeons, cutting bits out to improve our survival. Chopping and slicing in the only defence left to us. The only alternative when antibiotics don’t work.

Not nice, eh?

Loosing an arm or a leg because germs got in. Or half a lung, all of your stomach – and just how easy will your life be then? Forget playing the violin again – you could be a basket case.

Which is where all our clamouring for antibiotics is going to get us if we don’t pack it in.

MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – is already a major infection headache for hospitals everywhere. There are many others, and increasing everyday. Soon none of our repertoire of antibiotics will have any effect at all.

All because the wonder-drugs of fifty years ago are now used everywhere on an industrial scale. Agriculture alone uses near 500 TONNES a year – no wonder they’re over-used!

Which means it’s back to the Dark Ages – the government has already said so. More to the point, so has Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, who basically admits that drugs don’t work any more.

You get an infection now, the only cure is going to be to cut it out – with the risk of more infection of course if the enlarged wound gets infected.

Wash, wash, wash

Yup, we can wash our hands – our first line of defence. Except too many of us don’t even do that – 62% of men and 40% of women – do we have a death wish or what?

Or are we already used to the idea that the price for getting ill is to start losing body parts?

And sure, we can use a Hypersteriliser to take out viruses and bacteria that threaten our living space – but only BEFORE we get infected, not after.

So slip and cut yourself getting off the bus, and you could lose an arm.

Better to leave the doctoring to the doctors, don’t you think?

Because if we haven’t done six years of med school – followed by two years of internship minimum – what the hell do we know about antibiotics anyway?

Originally posted 2015-08-18 16:59:49.

Shock, horror – infections at work

Bugs at the Office
Count on it – if it’s going around,
it’s gonna get you

In hospitals they call them HAIs – Hospital Acquired Infections.

Outside medical circles, nobody’s started talking about Work Acquired Infections (WAIs) yet. But they’re gonna.

Controversial topic, HAIs.

A lot of people think they’re proof of incompetence – it’s a disgrace that infections should happen in the first place. Totally unfair and not very realistic.

Because if you’re in hospital for an accident or operation, you’ll most likely have some kind of cut or incision. And right there, is a major risk of infection. It can happen, even with the most stringent hygiene measures.

Not so safe any more

But the world has changed since the last time you looked.

Hospitals have an even bigger threat to face behind HAIs. Because we’re so gung-ho and Harry Casual about antibiotics, there’s a whole load of viruses and bacteria out there that have learned how to resist them.

You get an infection, the Doc can’t shoot you full of penicillin any more because a lot of the time it won’t always work.

Take MRSA, the first line infection most hospitals are so worried about. The name says it all – Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Against that, antibiotics are about as useful as coffee sweeteners – your body just has to tough it out.

More hazards

Now think of that in the wider world.

Antibiotics are starting not to respond  – so if something happens to you, you could be in big trouble.

And things do. Accidents at work happen way more than you think. Check how the Health & Safety people see things happening in a year:

  • 133 workers killed at work (2013/14)
  • 2,535 mesothelioma deaths in 2012 due to past asbestos exposures
  • 78,000 other injuries to employees were reported under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences)(2012/13)
  • 175,000 over-7-day absence injuries occurred (LFS) (2012/13)
  • 1.1 million working people were suffering from a work-related illness (2011/12)

Those are the big dramas. But what about the little ones?

It’s just a scratch

You drop something, you cut yourself, something digs into you. What’s the bet hygiene levels at work are nothing like in hospitals?

Even an office can be anything but “harmless”.

Just think of it. Maybe thirty or fifty of you, all in the same room. All breathing the same air, all exposed to the same environment.

You don’t even have to have an accident, there’s plenty of germs ready to have a go at you. With so many people concentrated together – more viruses, more bacteria – the threshold is higher. WAIs are almost inevitable.

High germ thresholds for instance, are almost certainly the cause of “sick building syndrome”. Headaches, nausea – you’re not sick of the job, you genuinely have a health issue.

Germs everywhere

But you don’t have to. And as the effect of antibiotics not working becomes more acute, you’re going to see a lot of places taking active steps so you never do.

You’re probably already aware that desks and computer keyboards are breeding places of germs – as many as 20,961 microbes per square inch according to research.

Sure, your workplace gets vacuumed and wiped down every day by good, professional services – but they can’t do everything. What about under things, or nooks and crannies – or even the air itself?

Higher-level hygiene

Know how the smell of fish and chips lingers when everyone has gone? Germs linger the same, able to survive up to a week or more – floating in the air because they’re so incredibly small. An infection waiting to happen.

You guessed it, our hygiene habits need to ramp up a level. Clean isn’t necessarily safe. And once somebody catches a bug, sure as anything, you know it’s going to get everyone.

So the trick is to sterilise the place. Not just the desks and floors – those are done already, and look at the hazards we face. We need to do the air too – after all, it’s 80% of the space – and day to day, it never gets touched.

All automatic

Enter the hygiene robots – machines that take down germs and make the place totally safe from viruses and bacteria. They may be ultra violet generators or oxidising foggers – but they work, and very effectively.

Still feeling queasy at your desk? If it’s not lunch, maybe you should pressure the boss into getting the place sterilised every night. A hydrogen peroxide super-mister eliminates all germs in around twenty minutes.

It won’t stop infection if you get a cut of course. There’s germs on your skin and clothes from outside, so you still have to take all precautions. You’re less likely to develop problems though, because the germ threshold is less – at zero when you walked in this morning.

WAIs are likely to increase – but not on your watch.

Originally posted 2014-10-22 11:51:55.

Now deadly superbugs resist disinfectants too

Biohazard team
Disinfect all you like – once germs resist, nowhere is safe

It’s our own fault really. Teaching bugs how to resist. Believe it or not, by having a go with disinfectants too often.

Too often, or too carelessly?

Because bacteria are survivors, see? They’ve been on this planet longer than any other living thing. So they can cope with extremes. Acid environments, polluted with metals.  Even boiling water.

Which makes resisting disinfectants a bit of a doddle.

Slap-happy routine

Especially when disinfectants come at them every day.  Routine same-old, everybody’s used to it – plenty of slap-happy mistakes.

Not properly applied, so bits get missed. Not strong enough, so not all are killed. Not exposed for long enough, so even more escape.  And always repetitive, so they know what’s coming.

More of the same, get ready. And not all of them are dead from last time.

Not dead, and not driven out –  every time they get stronger. Better able to resist. More used to defending themselves.

Plus, if it gets too hard to resist, they get clever.

Like going up against bleach – the one substance bacteria has a problem with, because it oxidises them.

But not a problem if the bleach is too weak, or not left on for long enough.

Billions of years of being clever

A couple of capfuls in a bucket of water makes a solution that’s not nearly strong enough. And the usual wipe-on, wipe-off won’t leave it there nearly long enough – bleach takes 30 minutes exposure time to be sure of a kill.

Plus, bacteria can live with the smell, even if we humans can’t. The rest is just outlasting the stuff. Ensuring there are enough bacteria around to keep going.

Not a problem when you can regenerate yourself quickly. E. coli for instance – including its deadly O157 variant – can replicate itself every 20 minutes.  If a batch get wiped out, they’re easily back at strength in just hours.

The other trick is to hide behind biofilms – hard-to-remove slime that protects bacteria from contact with the bleach.

Or to unfold a heat-shock protein, Hsp33, which binds and protects other proteins from harm, helping the bacteria to survive.

All of which means, if you’re going to disinfect something, do it properly.

Life’s a bleach – or not

Use bleach, slap it on thick and leave it there for 30 minutes or more. Not always that simple as bleach attacks metals, particularly stainless steel. Your nose will tell you it’s pretty corrosive to other substances too.

Otherwise, you’re teaching the bacteria to resist. Giving it an immunity to further disinfectants used against it in the future. AND teaching it antibiotic resistance as well.

Or there is an easier solution – which no bacteria can resist, no matter what. No viruses or fungi either.

Simply mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide.

Electrostatically charged, the stuff reaches everywhere. Including the air, which never normally gets touched, even though it’s 80% of the average room space. And forced hard up against all those hard-to-reach places your sponge or cleaning cloth can’t get at.

Like bleach, the action is by oxidising. But exposure time is 30 seconds, not 30 minutes.

Because boosted by ionising into a plasma mist, hydrogen peroxide releases a slew of other other antimicrobials. Hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet.

Oxygen atoms reach out and grab at germs, ripping their cell structure apart.

40 minutes later, and it’s done and dusted. Disinfected AND sterilised.

The mist reverts to eco-friendly oxygen and water, which evaporates – and the whole place is germ-free. 99.9999% gone – no bacteria, no viruses, no fungi – to a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level.

No slopping around on top of the necessary rubbing and scrubbing. No noxious fumes either.

Hard to resist?

You bet.

Picture Copyright: kadmy / 123RF Stock Photo