Tag Archives: superbugs

Next stop, Queasy Tummy and Norovirus – hold on tight please

Two girls on tube
Yes, hold on tight. But don’t touch anything else – and make sure your hands are clean afterwards. You life could depend on it.

Hold on? We don’t think so.

Be super careful, more like. OCD like your life depends on it.

Which it does.

Especially if you’re not carrying disposable gloves, antibacterial gel or hand wipes.

Because after our blog of yesterday,  it seems germs on the Underground are far more of a threat than we think – as this mind-boggling post from Dr Ed demonstrates.

Too many germs, too easy to touch

Not surprising with 5 million passengers a day.

All crammed in tight, breathing the same air, hanging on to the same poles and grab handles. And all with the same dodgy hygiene habits:

Yeah, right.

Dirty hands touching dirty things, is it any wonder we’re always coming down with something?

121 different kinds of viruses and bacteria – according to research commissioned by insurance experts,  Staveley Head. 9 of them superbugs – potentially lethal killers that doctors can no longer treat with antibiotics.

Catching a bug on the tube and taking it to work. Falling ill and having to call it in. And probably passing it round to colleagues while doing so.

And all at ENORMOUS expense

It’s that kind of exposure that contributes to the £29 billion a year that sick leave costs the country.

And even worse than that, the 10 TIMES MORE it costs in unwell people coming to work anyway and toughing it out. £290 billion and counting.

£319 billion that adds up to. Enough to bankroll the NHS a whopping TWO AND A HALF TIMES over.

Or closer to home, individual organisations can get a hold on their own costs here.

Staggering, right?

Yet what do we do about it?

All that money and people bleat about cuts.

When all the time there is money for the taking – £319 billion if we play our cards right – just by ramping up our hygiene.

Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene

Like washing hands properly and often – as the folks at Northampton Hospital have been telling us for the last five years.

And like doing something to get rid of those germs. Hold everything – stop the exposure, stop the illnesses, stop all that money going down the drain.

Which means time to say, “Hold it, enough.”

Because it IS possible to eliminate germs pretty well completely. They’ll come back of course, they always do. But just like brushing our teeth, it is possible to be safe and protected every day – in the workplace, on the tube, in fact anywhere there is an enclosed space.

All it takes is regular treatment with ionised hydrogen peroxide, and the problem goes away.

ALL viruses, ALL bacteria, ALL parasites, ALL mould – end of the line, gone.

So come on people, don’t put up with it any more. Right now, the average is that we’ll all feel off-colour in some way or other every three days. Aren’t we all heartily sick of it?

Already the tube people have gone far enough to worry about air quality and do something about that. So when are they going to get a hold on the germ issue?

Let’s hope we don’t need an epidemic first.

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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.

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Listen up G20, antibiotics are already off the rails, start funding alternatives

Doctor derailed
Long-term antibiotics are a train smash – for the sake of global health, it’s time to get the G20 back on track

Let’s hope the G20 can get it right.

Meeting in Berlin, world health ministers have agreed to tackle antibiotics resistance.

They need to do a lot more than that, these miracle wonder drugs are now right off the track.

Yeah, OK – antibiotics resistance. Superbugs immune to everything we throw at them. Caused by over use and abuse of antibiotics – two thirds of all prescriptions are unnecessary.

But tightening up procedures is not likely to achieve anything. Not when 70% of antibiotics are not used on humans at all, but on animals.

Not to make them better, but to fatten them up.

How resistance is created

So sure, there’s over use and abuse – 240,000 tonnes of it every year. The world has 7½  billion people to feed and there’s money to be made doing it.

So never mind that an antibiotic like colistin is held back by doctors as a drug of last resort. There’s a factory in China producing 10,000 tonnes of it a year – to fatten up pigs.

Which means superbug immunity is accelerating all the time. On volumes like that, bacteria have plenty of opportunity to develop resistance. And pass their invulnerability on to others.

And it gets worse.

Not only are bacteria resistant to antibiotics, they’re becoming resistant to antiseptics and disinfectants too. So that doctors and care workers THINK they’ve scrubbed and scoured their hands clean – and they’re still covered in superbugs.

Resistance and fatness

Worse still, the antibiotics fed to animals get into the human food chain. Via residues in meat and in manure used for cultivation. In such volumes, every food type is affected – meat, poultry, fish, fruit, vegetables, cereals, grain.

Every human on earth is daily absorbing micro-doses of the most efficient growth promoter every invented. Like animals, people are getting fat. Clinically obese and on the road to diabetes, asthma, heart disease and cancer.

Result – except in the short term, antibiotics are more dangerous than life-saving. They might prevent infection for a heart transplant or a caesarean birth. But the superbugs they spawn already kill 25,000 people a year in the EU – the same as road accidents.

And with the slow death of obesity, antibiotics will kill many millions more.

Start again

All of which should say to the G20 – stop wasting time and money. Antibiotics have outlasted their usefulness, it’s time to find replacements.

Replacement bacteria-killers to protect life. Replacement hygiene methods to ensure safety. And replacement growth promoters to produce food.

They already exist.

Bacteriophages are viruses that kill bacteria. They can be specifically targeted. And they can be quickly modified, mutating just as bacteria mutate to prevent acquiring resistance.

Ionised hydrogen peroxide misting kills ALL germs, not just bacteria – viruses and fungi too. No hospital need ever again run the risk of pathogens not removed before procedures.

Probiotics and in-feed enzymes have  worked as growth promoters in Sweden and Nordic countries since 1986. Maybe not as spectacularly, but certainly successfully. And food production is a big industry, there’ll be no shortage of funds if finding better methods is in need of funding.

So come on G20, how about it?

Drop all this antibiotic stuff and let’s get back on track.

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Antibiotic resistant superbugs: back to basics now Plan B no longer saves lives

Space scrubber
The heck with Plan B – without antibiotics, it’s back to the future to survive germs

Once upon a time there was no such thing as antibiotics. No Plan B.

No superbugs to catch if they were resistant. People survived by living clean and healthy.

What kept us alive back then was clean water supplies, good sewerage, proper waste removal and high personal hygiene.

Kids went to school, washed and polished, hands and faces bright from brushing. All water was boiled. And washing got done the hard way – by hours of rubbing and scrubbing.

It worked too. People knew that living clean kept them safe from germs. Dirt made you sick.

Then antibiotics came along and people started taking chances. Dirt might make you sick, but antibiotics made you well again. Doctors could perform miracles without risk of infection. To infinity, and beyond.

Our great hygiene leap – backwards

Fifty years later, our water systems are older. Make that ancient – they were 100 years old in the first place. Pipes have rusted, other stuff has seeped in, leaks enough to fill 1,235 Olympic swimming pools a day flood our streets.

Our waste problems are even worse. For instance, in 2013 and 2014, 1.4 BILLION TONS of raw sewage were pumped into the Thames, far more than before our sewer system was even invented.

In the meantime, we’ve also become careless.

A little dirt in our lives? No problem, antibiotics will make us better when we get sick – wonder lifesavers for everything, so we gobble them down like sweets. And today we get away with chances our grandparents would never have dreamed of.

Except that germs no longer want to play that game. After 50 years of misuse and abuse, they learned how to survive antibiotics. To become immune. To stay alive, no matter what we chuck at them, resistant even to our last-resort triple-whammy specials.

Last resort drugs failure

Today, when all else fails, doctors fall back on two hard-core antibiotics they keep in the back of the cupboard. Carbapenems (actually a whole spectrum of antibacterials) and colistin. Our antibiotics Plan B.

Now here’s the bad news.

Carbapenems are already compromised by the emergence of a superbug more potent than existing villains like MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus). Known as carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), around 50% of people who get it into their bloodstream die.

Very much the second choice because of its kidney-damaging side-effect, colistin is not much better. Chinese researchers first found a strain of escherichia coli resistant to it in 2013.  Not surprising, since down the road is a factory producing 10,000 tons of it a year – as a growth promoter for pigs and poultry.

So that’s it for Plan B, then. What now?

Our horrible hygiene habits

Back to basics, of course. It worked for our ancestors, it can work for us too.

And keep us alive.

Amazing what you can do with soap and water, isn’t it?

Which we certainly need to climb into. There’s three times more of us on the planet than there was back then. Which means three times more germs, because we’re all made of bacteria anyway.  Plus the personal germ clouds each of us carries around with us. And three times more  sewage – 11 million tons A DAY in London alone.

That’s a lot of germs, all milling around waiting to infect us. Waiting for us to get careless.

Which we seriously do, because we can’t see germs. They’re too small.

So we look at our hands and we reckon they’re clean.

As if.

Meanwhile, our reality check is that:

Since we’re that dirty, our workplaces are not so clean either. All those things that never get cleaned – light switches, door handles, touch screens and keypads. Not forgetting our desks of course, with 10 million germs on average, just waiting to have a go at us.

Wash your hands – or else

Puts a new perspective on why we’re always coming down with colds and tummy bugs, doesn’t it? We’re lucky it’s not something more serious. Which, with something like sepsis and NO ANTIBIOTICS THAT WORK, it could easily be. A simple paper cut could be the infection that kills us.

Which is why we should be getting rid of the germs around us too – in the workplace, in restaurants and public buildings, in schools – even on public transport.

You leave home healthy, your hand grabs banisters, strap handles, escalator railings and door knobs.  Then you pick up the office phone, which hasn’t been wiped since it was installed five years ago – and wonder where the tummy cramps came from that night.

So, get rid of the germs if we want to survive. Make it part of the daily cleaning routine so the place is always safe first thing in the morning. All it takes is a dose of ionised hydrogen peroxide every night and the place is sterile.

OK, so if antibiotics aren’t working, there are options besides Plan B.

Ramp up the hygiene and it’s back to the future – saving our own lives.

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Eek, not food poisoning! Keep calm and cook food thoroughly

Woman butcher
Hygiene and common sense – we’re not utterly defenceless

Relax, nobody’s going to die. Or get the collywobbles . Or anything.

As long as everything is properly cooked, we’re all going to be fine.

Because unless you’re into sushi or steak tartare, nobody eats meat raw, do they?

And if whatever you’re preparing is affected by any bacteria or something, most germs are destroyed by the high temperatures of cooking – everybody’s safe.

Take our current scare with chicken.

There’s all kinds of  official bodies jumping up and down because nearly three-quarters of the chicken in any supermarket is contaminated with campylobacter. Nasty upset tummies with that one, some people can get quite seriously ill.

Inconvenient truths

But here’s a fact of life. Pretty well most poultry has campylobacter. It occurs naturally in birds and may even be necessary for healthy existence. So chickens aren’t contaminated, they’re colonised. Cooked thoroughly, they’re perfectly safe.

It’s like we don’t eat fish with scales, or prawns with the blue vein. They could make you ill too if you were careless enough. It’s part of proper food prep, like shelling eggs, skinning oranges or peeling potatoes.

Of course you DO have to clean everything thoroughly as you do it. Knives, chopping boards, prep surfaces and all utensils need a good scrub after working with chicken. So do your hands, to avoid any risk infection.

But you were going to do all that anyway – WEREN’T you?

It’s the same with Danish bacon. Still about the best you can buy anywhere – but these days unfortunately nearly three-quarters of all Danish pork is afflicted with MRSA.

Well, with so many mouths to feed around the world, we were the ones who pressured farmers in Denmark and elsewhere into boosting production with antibiotics. Shovelling the stuff into livestock in industrial quantities too – 240,000 tonnes a year and skyrocketing.

Superbugs everywhere

Small wonder then that with hundreds of thousands of pigs, any bacteria they were carrying developed resistance. So now we have LA-MRSA (Livestock Associated Methicillin Resistant Streptococcus Aureus) THREATENING us, just like campylobacter.

Well, yes. Except that just like campylobacter, cook that Danish pork properly and all trace of LA-MRSA is removed – the bacon is safe to eat, just like previously.

And right there are two examples of highly popular food types that on the surface present a hazard, but with proper precautions are really nothing to worry about.

Yes, it is disturbing that superbugs like MRSA are in our food. But with antibiotics being used by agriculture in such astronomic quantities, we should heed and take precautions anyway. More than likely all kinds of food types are laced with other superbugs and we need to be on our guard.

At least we can turn up the heat and get rid of most of them – part of the cooking we are already doing.

Worse than superbugs

Much more worrying are residual traces of the antibiotics themselves, which heat cannot get rid of unless you boil your food for hours, losing all taste and appeal.

All those animals were fed antibiotics to keep them healthy in the super-crowded environment of factory farms (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). With the money-making side effect that they fattened up for market in a quarter of the time.

Yeah, well – we eat those animals, we swallow the same antibiotics, we fatten up too. On the one-way road to obesity with all the inevitable complications – diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Literally to a dead end.

Getting rid of the antibiotics – that’s an issue all of us face and none of us are ready for.  A headache for governments and health authorities for years to come.

Superbugs in our food though – they’re a problem too, but we can make them go away.

Guess that answers the question, hey? Would you prefer rare, medium or well-done?

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Why taking antibiotics is like chopping off your leg

Crazy girl with knife
Without knowing it, we’re doing ourselves more harm than good

Crazy, right? Round the twist. Who in their right mind would want to chop their leg off?

But that’s how crazy we are when we take antibiotics.

We don’t think so, of course.  But without knowing it, we’re doing ourselves serious harm.

Because antibiotics are prescribed to do one thing – kill bacteria.

Killers as life-savers?

And surprise, surprise, though none of us ever realise it – our own bodies are more bacteria than human, our cells outnumbered by more than 10 to 1.

Seems impossible and about-face, but that’s actually a good thing.

Bacteria are one of the longest-lasting life forms on Earth. Amazing survivors too. Capable of withstanding fierce high temperatures. Triple-figure sub-zero freezing temperatures. Even living and breeding in acid.

Our bodies are colonised by hundreds of trillions of these remarkable creatures. They’re vitally necessary to handle our digestion, produce proteins and manage our immune systems – among thousands of other functions. They live with our human cells in harmony – and we could not exist without them.

So yeah, we take antibiotics to kill bacteria that are harming us. The WRONG bacteria in the WRONG place, running amok among the RIGHT bacteria that are who we are.

Oh dear – chop, chop, chop.

A bomb in the guts

Because in targeting harmful bacteria, those same antibiotics inevitably kill some of our good bacteria too. Their killer action is spread wide to be sure of effectiveness. So our own systems take a hit – though we may not know it at the time.

The bacteria inside us know it though, particularly in our gut. To the trillions and trillions that live in our insides, a dose of antibiotics is like exploding a hydrogen bomb.  Millions get the chop.

Sure some of them regrow, reproducing themselves sometimes in as little as 20 minutes. But not all. Some are damaged and can’t do their job. Others –  the rarer ones – might be lost altogether. Our gut population depleted, our bio-diversity gone.

We might feel the same when our illness passes – back to normal and our usual selves.

But we’re not.

Biggest of the known side effects of antibiotics is growth promotion. The body bulks up very rapidly, putting on weight overnight . Damaged or missing bacteria cause the metabolism to gorge on food more than normal. And to extract a higher proportion of nutrients, directly accelerating the body’s over-development.

Fatter and fatter

See what happens with kids aged two, put on antibiotics. By the time they get to five they’re already overweight, well on their way to increasingly chubby childhood.

It’s this quality that has revolutionised the food industry, enabling factory farms to pump out THREE times the world’s meat and plant crop output in little more than 20 years.

Such weight gain doesn’t happen to everybody.

But it’s already a fact of life – and a key reason why two-thirds of adults are already overweight or obese.  Not just from medical treatments – frighteningly made worse by one third of all prescribed antibiotics being completely unnecessary – but from daily exposure through our FOOD.

You see, spectacular growth boosting in food production has exploded antibiotics use all over the world. Currently 240,000 tonnes annually and rocketing.

That means that through direct dosing with feedstuffs – and even more through indirect absorption of manure used to fertilise, enriching all plant life and those same feedstuffs – all of us receive a small daily intake of antibiotics with every meal we eat. Exactly the way to make us bulk up fast.

Fatter and sicker

Animals and plants quickly get eaten, so their life expectancy is not very high – a few years at most. But we go on for decades, getting steadily fatter, deeper into obesity. More prone to illnesses that obesity brings – diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many others. All long goodbyes.

Not the same as chopping off a leg – but equally unpleasant. And a lot more life-threatening.

Nor is it just getting fat that antibiotics threaten us with.

Damaged or missing bacteria deny us any immunity to serious illness we may have inherited from our parents. Our kids are denied them for the same reason, they’re no longer there to be passed on.

Worse, our bodies start reacting to conditions that aren’t there. Misreading normal signals as hostile, confusing everyday reality with phantom attacks against us.

Which is how, out of nowhere, we develop allergies. Hay fever, eczema or asthma. Or how about urticaria, anaphylactic shock or gluten reactions? People never had them 20 years ago –not in the snowballing number we have now.

Superbugs rule

And then of course – really chopping off our own leg – our undisciplined and wild overuse of antibiotics has triggered the development of superbugs.

Our cure-all miracle drugs are starting not to work any more because bacteria have become immune to them. Antimicrobial resistance.

Yes, well – we wanted to kill off bacteria, But nobody thought we were chopping off bits of ourselves.

So now we sit with life-savers that don’t work, medical surgery brought to a standstill, and all of us steadily getting fatter.

Not a survivable future

Though count on it, the bacteria that brought us down will still be around, long after we’re gone.

Oh yeah, and that antibiotic resistance superbug thing?

Wait till that runs riot across factory farms. Flash pandemics among livestock. No more food for most of us. Death by hunger is not a nice way to go – and we’re probably already too late to stop it.

Chopping off a leg, huh? Looks like we’ve already done it.

Time to reverse this antibiotics debacle now, to get off the train and find alternatives. Other solutions like bacteriophages – something, anything.

Either that, chop, chop – or we’re limping towards a future that doesn’t exist.

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Why we’re all going to die from antibiotics – unless a young Malaysian PhD student succeeds first

Girl in cemetery
Let’s hope antibiotics are NOT in our future

OK, most of us know that antibiotics kill bacteria.

Except it’s a shattering revelation to most of us that We are 90% bacteria. Only 10% of our bodies are human.

Yeah, life-saving antibiotics fight infection and make us well again.

But there’s always collateral damage. We never quite return to 100% ourselves again afterwards. Our personal bacteria are depleted or damaged.

All thanks to antibiotics.

A killer legacy

Miracle drugs they certainly have been, until now. But evidence is mounting that our unswerving faith in them may be misplaced. That they are in fact about the most deadly threat we face today.

Three major challenges they throw at us, all of them deadly:

  • Superbugs. Bacteria can and do find ways to resist antibiotics. They become immune, untreatable – life-threatening superbugs. The threat is so serious that the UN convened their first ever general assembly to address the issue only last week. Superbugs are expected to kill 10 million of us by 2050.
  • Obesity. We’re fat and getting fatter – two thirds of us are already overweight or obese.  Again, thanks to antibiotics. A staggering 240,000 tonnes are fed to livestock every year to accelerate growth and weight gain. Their manure fertilises crops, so that our entire food chain is laced with the most phenomenal growth booster ever. Our food bulks us up, we become obese, triggering diabetes, heart disease and cancer – together killing 500 million of us by 2050.
  • Famine. Farmers won’t stop feeding animals their biggest ever money-maker. Which means antibiotics on farms will nearly double in the next 15 years.  HALF A MILLION TONNES A YEAR gives bacteria plenty of practice to become superbugs. Which means widespread disease is inevitable – a collapse of the food supply to non-antibiotic levels. 6 billion of us can expect to starve to death.

More than two thirds of the world’s population gone. All thanks to antibiotics – the invincible superbugs they create, and the ballooning bodies they force on us that our systems cannot withstand.

Doom and gloom worldwide

An effective alternative

Except in a research lab at the University of Melbourne – where 25-year old PhD student Shu Lam from Batu Pahat in the state of Johor, Malaysia, is working on a game-changer.  Star-shaped molecules of peptide polymers that destroy superbugs WITHOUT antibiotics.

The star-shaped polymers rip bacteria walls apart WITHOUT harming the body. Destroying them in much the same way as oxygen atoms do outside the body – annihilating harmful germs in living spaces.

Shu Lam’s work is still in its infancy, but already the results are impressive. Effective against six strains of drug-resistant bacteria in the lab, and on one superbug in live mice.

Bacteriophages

Her work parallels the largely forgotten efforts of others looking for alternatives to antibiotics – particularly the use of bacteriophages.

Using a germ to catch a germ, phages are tightly targeted viruses that attack bacteria by injecting DNA and fragmenting their cells.

The practice of deploying viruses to kill bacteria became widely used by the Soviet Union during the Cold War – a practical alternative around embargoed Western antibiotics.

Meanwhile the rest of the world is still at committee stage, endlessly debating antimicrobial resistance while the rest of us fatten up daily.

Time to realise that antibiotics are not all they’re cracked up to be. Life-savers in an emergency, but killers long term.

Let’s hope the penny drops soon.

Two thirds of us could be dead by the time the gurus make a decision.

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Obesity and superbugs: our desperate denial of lethal antibiotic trigger

Girl blocks ears
We don’t want to hear – because who wants to know our glittering heroes are actually merciless serial killers?

Desperate because we don’t want to know. Denial because it involves antibiotics, our miracle life-saving drugs for the last 50 years.

Obesity and superbugs – caused by antibiotics?

Impossible!

Because antibiotics save lives, right? Brings us back from the jaws of death. Fix every little ailment whenever we run to the Doc. Turn us into invincible Twenty-First Century living beings. No illness is ever going to get us.

As if.

No longer the angels’ touch

The sad thing is, top medics are already know otherwise and are getting worried. Desperate even.

They’ve already made the connection with superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cannot be treated. Unstoppable diseases already immune to our most high-powered drugs of last resort.

Check it out – both supposedly last-ditch fail-safes colistin and carbapenem  are starting to conk as bacteria get wise to them, mostly from over-exposure in the agricultural sector. There’s nothing more in the cupboard.

Fall ill from a simple paper cut now and it’s already possible that no medicine on Earth may be able to save us. Which means keep on with the Harry Casual, happy-go-lucky lifestyles we’ve become used to – and we’re all goners.

Yeah, so superbugs. MRSA, carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae and that lot.

Without antibiotics they wouldn’t exist – which means our best-ever, triple-whammy, cure-all drugs are increasingly useless. Or more realistically, they don’t give us any protection when we rely on them. We expect them to save us, help, help!

Fat chance.

Battle of the bulge

Which brings us to the obesity disaster. More desperate than ever.

Yeah maybe, just maybe, medics are starting to recognise that antibiotics MAY  be influential in causing obesity – particularly in children.

Meanwhile, it’s an inescapable fact that antibiotics have been shovelled into farm livestock in industrial quantities over the last 50 years – BECAUSE THEY STIMULATE AND ACCELERATE GROWTH.

In other words, they make them fat. Antibiotics are the Number One growth booster in food production all round the world.

OK, so remember all those scares about how food has got unhealthy preservatives, colourisers, stabilisers, flavour enhancers, too much sugar, too much salt, and all manner of bad things in them?

Pick up whatever you like off the supermarket shelf, modern foods are all laced through and through with antibiotics.

Uh huh. Every meal you eat, every mouthful, contains a sub-therapeutic dose of antibiotics in it – exactly the same growth boosters, administered in exactly the same way, as farm animals being fattened for market.

And we wonder how it is that two-thirds of our adult population are overweight or obese – and accelerating! Desperate de luxe.

Better, back in the day

Worse, we keep kidding ourselves that it’s from not enough exercise, too much junk food or other such rubbish – when all the while, we’re dosed to the gills with the world’s Number One growth booster.

Yes, rubbish. Back in the 50s and 60s, people platzed in front of the TV just as much as they do now – they weren’t stupid, it was cold out there.

They didn’t exercise either – gyms were for weight-lifting freaks, jogging hadn’t been invented and pilates classes weren’t even heard of.

Nor was diet much better. Where do you think our traditions of fish and chips, pies, or the Great British Fry-up all came from? Yeah, it was the War and desperate days of rationing and powdered eggs. But they had burgers and Coke too – just ask your grand-folks about Wimpy, the mooching greedy-guts from the Popeye cartoons.

But THEY WEREN’T FAT.

THEY didn’t chow antibiotics with every meal.

THEY didn’t eat the growth boosters because back then they didn’t exist.

But yeah, they had killer illnesses. Like TB, polio, pneumonia and flu – which in 1918 killed more people in six months than in both World Wars.

Just getting started – the slo-mo pandemic

A drop in the ocean today. Because THEY didn’t face the long-term misery of obesity and all the desperate complications – diabetes, heart disease, cancer, limb amputation.

Desperation stakes for sure – because ALL of us face them.

ALL of us ingest antibiotics in some form or other – a long-term phenomenon in meat, diary, vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish, cereals, grains, you name it – right across the food chain.

Except we’re all going to deny it to ourselves.

Our mind-set can’t accept it. Antibiotics are good – they save lives, they keep people healthy.

If only.

Because reality is, for all the good they appear to do, antibiotics are bad – they kill us slowly, they trigger illnesses we never had.

OK, so how many of us are going to die before we decide to get real?

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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.

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Could you be criminally charged for infecting your work colleagues?

Bizgirl in handcuffs
It could happen – nicked for not washing your hands

We might not think we act criminally, and certainly not intentionally.

But if colleagues become ill or die from an infection we’ve introduced, can we not be held liable?

It is already an offence to transmit HIV – either knowingly, or unknowingly.

People are never the same once that affliction takes hold of them. So infection constitutes an crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

We’re all of us prone to seemingly limitless diseases, but nothing ever happens unless we’re exposed to them.

We all work and socialise together, which means we often cross-infect each other – passing round the snuffles or an upset tummy without really thinking about it.

Negligence and drug failure

Most of these infections are entirely preventable with proper hand hygiene, which we are unforgivably lax about. So that infection by the usual suspects – escherichia coli, salmonella, clostridium difficile, campylobacter, MRSA, colds, flu and norovirus – is almost inevitable across a year.

As we are at the moment, we sort of take that in our stride.

There’s only one problem.

Without most of us knowing it, our Number One miracle drugs – antibiotics – are rapidly losing the battle against superbugs resistant to them. We’re already at the threshold where they stop working altogether.

Which changes things Big Time, if you think about HIV. Without antibiotics, ANY infection or disease is suddenly life-threatening. Particularly if there is an underlying condition to be made worse – which one way or another, most of us have by the time we reach 25.

Death threat

Which means if you breeze into the office with ANY kind of ailment – even a sniffle that you just laugh off – it could mean the death sentence for one of your colleagues.

And count on it, cross-infection is highly likely. These days, we all work together in big offices of 20 or more. Or smaller spaces all served by the same HVAC system. Constantly exposed to each other’s condition with zero protection.

As we’re now starting to realise, each of us is home to a massive colony of bacteria in, on, and around our bodies at all times – our very own personal and individually unique microbiome.

We carry around a cloud of microbes directly related to who we are, our health, our mental state, our gender, and a zillion other influences. A signature more detailed and accurate than any fingerprint, retina scan or DNA sample.

Not only that, our individual clouds can completely displace and take over from any existing cloud in a matter of hours. So that scientists can determine when we were in a location. Our physical state when we were there. Even what we may have had to eat or drink before we got there.

Biological fingerprint

That gives us each a forensic profile that can only be ours. Irrefutable proof that any infection or ailment we may be carrying is the source of exposure. And cause of colleagues succumbing to a particular illness and deterioration of their life condition.

Now here’s the thing. By analysing the traces of microbiome present in a scene, existing technology is barely a step away from finding us culpable of causing health detriments to others.

If for example, we’re negligent in ensuring proper hand hygiene after a visit to the toilet, are we not criminally responsible for the MRSA of a colleague? And without antibiotics that work any more, is our action not a threat to life – culpable negligence, manslaughter or murder?

Avoiding hygiene felony

Suddenly, not washing your hands could become an Offence Against the Person, punishable by long term or even life imprisonment.

And it’s not just us, but our bosses too.

We might get done for not washing our hands. They could get nicked for not keeping the workplace safe and free from germs.

Again, remembering that this is against the background of total antibiotics failure. Our only defence against serious illness is heightened hygiene discipline.

Which is why bosses will be glad to look at a Hypersteriliser. Press one button and forty minutes later, ALL viruses and bacteria are no more – oxidised to nothing by hydrogen peroxide mist.

The germs will be back next morning of course – our combined microbiomes quickly repopulating the space and laying claim to it.

But germ threshold levels will be reduced – and back down to zero at the end of the day, when repeat treatment annihilates them again. A daily discipline, just like cleaning your teeth.

Yes, daily.

Because think about it. If we all have the opportunity to eliminate germs to make us all safer, it must be criminally wrong not to use it.

Sterile is secure.

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