Tag Archives: TB

Yes, we NEED germs – but only in the right place

Girl with glow
With germs, the impossible could be closer than we think

Start with the mirror.

You think that’s you, don’t you?

Well y-e-s, but not entirely.

In fact, far from entirely.

Because our own human body cells are outnumbered by bacteria more than 100 to 1. Every one of them living inside us and actually helping us live. If they weren’t there, we wouldn’t survive.

Not who we think we are

Surprised?

Yeah well, the entire world’s like that. Every living thing is home to whole hosts of bacteria essential to existence. Which makes bacteria way more important than most of us ever think. We’re not infected with them, we’re colonised by them.

So our paranoia about destroying them is most unwise.

Uh huh.

Think again

So how come this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria? Isn’t that about getting rid of microorganisms?

Far from it.

Reality Number One. Bacteria are vitally necessary for every living function.

But not ALL bacteria are appropriate in every situation.

Campylobacter for instance, occurs naturally in poultry – 75% of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and wild birds have it in their gut. Somehow it helps in the digestion of whatever they eat – processing the grit perhaps, or balancing natural sugars.

In humans however, campylobacter is highly pathogenic – the most common cause of food poisoning. In the UK alone, 300,000 people die from it every year.

OK, you can see the connection. Chicken is a highly popular source of cheap protein – so the whole food industry is up in arms about the contamination of our top of the pops menu choice.

Contamination, schm-ontamination.

It occurs naturally in birds, right? It’s SUPPOSED to be there.

So what’s the problem?

Everybody, the Food Safety Agency, producers, supermarkets, chefs, restaurants – all know that if you cook chicken properly, all campylobacter is destroyed. Those wings, drumsticks and nuggets are totally safe to eat.

And again

So, Reality Number Two. Bacteria are only beneficial when they’re in the right place.

Which is why this blog is called Back Off, Bacteria!

Back Off, Bacteria! Get back to where you belong.

There are over 500 microbe types that colonise our gut – bacteriods, peptococci, staphylococci, streptococci, bacilli, clostridia, yeasts, enterobacteria, fuzobacteria, eubacteria, catenobacteria, etc – we don’t need a rogue outsider coming in and upsetting the apple cart.

As long as a bacterium is in the right place, that’s OK.

But the wrong place needs action if you don’t want to sicken and die.

Which is why – first line of defence – you should wash your hands so you don’t ingest some harmful killer bug you can’t see.

And second – you should sterilise your surrounding environment so any other dangerous pathogens can’t invade you any other way.

Out of sight, out of mind

No, it’s not rocket science. But since viruses and bacteria are too small to see, they’re just not on anybody’s radar. Nobody sees any danger, so there isn’t any.

Mistake. The wrong bacterium in the wrong place can kill you as efficiently as any bullet. And just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there – how about cholera, tetanus or TB?

So back to earth. Bacteria are simple, not second-guessing the whole universe all the time like we do.

All they do is eat. And when they can’t find the right food, they eat us – which is what infection is.

They’re also programmed to survive, just like we are. Except they work in minutes and hours, not decades. And they’ve been around for billions of years longer so they’re a hell of a lot better at it.

If one cell dies off, its offspring will carry on. And on, and on, and on – more persistently than we humans ever even get close to.

And you’d better believe it, since they outnumber our own body cells more than 100 to 1, they’re the ones calling the shots, not us.

Who’s the boss?

Think it’s your brain telling the body what to do?

Where do you think we get gut feel from, or the physical symptoms that are triggered by stress?

Butterflies in your tummy? The bacteria are apprehensive, they want to survive. They’re warning you. Don’t do whatever you’re planning to do because there’s danger or unpleasantness ahead.

Yeah, your brain can override them, but at what cost? Acid tummy, shaking muscles, nerves shot to pieces. These guys know which strings to pull – and they do.

Again, Back Off, Bacteria – we’ve got other priorities to satisfy. Like getting through that interview, or proposing to your sweetheart – not all going into combat, or jumping off a cliff.

Magical powers

Bacteria may even have “magic” qualities that makes us think of the supernatural.

As regular readers of this blog will know, bacteria carry a tiny electrical charge positive on the outside, negative on the inside.

It’s this charge that enables negatively-charged ionised hydrogen peroxide molecules to latch onto them only the fly – oxidising them to oblivion in one of the most efficient room sterilising procedures ever.

Researchers have also found that the electrical charge in bacteria like e. coli can actually generate light – creating flashes like Christmas tree lights.

Put that together with the fact that we’re always surrounded by a “bio-cloud” of billions and billions of bacteria all the time – and it’s possible that under the right conditions we really do generate a visible aura.

Better still, as bacteria respond to our changing body conditions, the electrical charge they put out could vary, changing the actual colour of this aura. Maybe not a myth any more, but genuine reality.  All those child prodigies, swamis and spiritual mediums might have been right all along.

So yeah – germs, we need ’em.

Let’s just make sure we keep them in a safe place.

Originally posted 2015-08-19 18:32:28.

NHS vs TB: winning the war against the world’s oldest killer

Disaster Man
TB might be deadly,
but we can still win

Bad things don’t get much badder.

So bad that London is the recognised TB capital of Europe – the second most common cause of death world-wide after HIV/AIDS.

Consumption it used to be called. The wasting disease of the poor in Dickensian times.

But TB’s been around a hell of a lot longer than that.

Curse of the ancients

It tops the Who’s Who of killer diseases back to biblical times and beyond: tuberculosis (TB), leprosy, cholera, smallpox, rabies, malaria, pneumonia, influenza, measles and the Black Plague.

In fact tubercular decay has been found in the spines of Egyptian mummies from 3000 BC.

It’s the longest-running bacteria war in the history of humanity.

But it’s one we can win in nearly every case. Even for those so down on their luck the only way forward seems like feet-first.

The anti-TB hit team

You may not have heard of Find&Treat – another team of NHS heroes who work nationwide, fighting TB for those who need it most – homeless people, drug abusers, alcoholics, helpless migrants and ex-cons.

No, they’re not a Halloween outfit. They’re dedicated professionals – out there with mobile X-ray units day and night to locate the 10,000 sufferers every year with confirmed TB.

It’s no surprise it’s the disease of the poor.

We all of us interact with bacteria everyday – some good, some bad – a miraculous balance held in check by our immune systems.

But things work against you when you’re a have-not.

Not enough food, not enough liquids, no defence against the cold, zero chance to keep yourself clean.

Any one of those can throw the body out of balance.

Next thing, the cough that spells the end – unspeakable stuff in your spit, very often blood.

Except it’s fixable with drugs and proper care.

TB can be beaten (Tweet this)

Streptomycin in combination with others to get round antibiotic resistance – bedaquiline and delamanid and many others – a vital defence against MDR-TB (multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis).

And if that doesn’t work, there’s surgery – removing fluid-filled bullae from the lungs – simultaneously reducing the number of bacteria and increasing drug-exposure to the remainder. Take that, you murderous scum.

But getting well is not easy – especially if you’re sleeping rough and living on the streets.

Which is where the Peers come in – recovered TB patients who know how hard it is to find support. So they give it themselves in advice and encouragement, persuading the homeless to get checked and receive treatment.

Been there, done that, got better.

Nasty though, TB. Highly contagious.

Remember “cough and sneezes spread diseases” – the 1942 slogan to counter people pulling sickies?

It’s airborne and deadly, easily picked up by anyone, particularly in cities – crowded places where people live and breathe on top of each other.

Except that’s preventable too.

TB prevention

As a bacteria, TB can be clobbered by hydrogen peroxide spray. Lingering germs in the air are destroyed as they swirl around – oxidised to shreds so their individual cells rip apart.

You can’t stop a sneeze passing the bacteria on, but you can sterilise the room in which a sufferer has been – all viruses and bacteria destroyed with 99.9999% efficiency.

TB capital of Europe?

London has faced worse things – and is still winning.

Let those folk who bad-mouth the NHS think on that – next time they start coughing.

Originally posted 2015-01-20 13:53:34.

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?

Picture Copyright: vgstudio / 123RF Stock Photo