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.
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.
Picture Copyright: kreinick / 123RF Stock Photo