You might have heard the term antibiotic resistance in the news recently…but it’s certainly not a new problem! In fact, this issue has been known (and largely ignored) for 56 years!
When you were little, things like germs, bugs, and viruses were all lumped together. You knew they were bad for you and sometimes, you had to go to the doctor.
A lot of those visits, you probably left that appointment with a prescription.
Up until twenty years ago, prescription antibiotics were the answer to almost everything for children and adults alike – and it threw our bodies out of sync (even though we didn’t know it at the time). Not all bacteria are bad and some are necessary for your survival.
Overuse of antibiotics has caused a fundamental problem of epidemic proportions. Antibiotic resistance is very real, happening right now, and detrimental to the very survival of mankind.
How Superbugs Evolved to Beat our “Cures”
Many of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics are no longer effective. The bacteria they were created to fight mutated and developed an immunity that makes these medications useless against certain strains.
When penicillin was discovered in 1928, it was considered a miracle cure. Until that point, conditions ranging from syphilis to an infected cut could result in death. Certain infections spread rapidly, jumping from person to person, and decimated populations throughout history.
The discovery of antibiotics changed everything. Science believed the problem was solved and that the solution would last forever.
They found out they were wrong in 1961. That’s when the very first case of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) was diagnosed in the United Kingdom and doctors realized the staph infection was immune to methicillin.
Antibiotic resistance was a proven reality from that moment.
This shocking development didn’t stop manufacturers from releasing countless antibacterial products for those who wanted to live in a more “sterile” environment.
It also didn’t stop food producers from pumping chickens, cows, pork, and so on full of antibiotics to make them fat and keep them from getting sick. More than 80% of antibiotics distributed in the United States are force-fed to animals we then consume in the form of meat, eggs, and dairy products. Check your labels and always choose antibiotic-free!
Here we are in the 21st century with an epidemic on our hands.
MRSA is no longer the only antibiotic resistant “superbug” out there. ESKAPE is an acronym for Enterococcus, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, and Enterobacter – the most common organisms found hospitals.
Hospital-acquired infections (HAI) kill at least 48,000 people every year. That’s three times more than the number of people who die from HIV annually.
There are also some historically well-known diseases that are gradually gaining antibiotic resistance and even making a comeback. That’s bad news for the global population.
- Meningitis – a bacterial illness that affects primarily children and young adults
- Salmonella – a bacterial infection resulting from food contamination
- Tuberculosis – the most prevalent infectious lung disease worldwide that kills 1.5 million a year (500,000 cases are resistant to all available treatments)
- Influenza – contagious respiratory virus
- Candida – yeast infections which can affect various areas of the body
- Malaria – parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes (more than half the world’s population is at risk for malaria and it caused more than 600,000 deaths in 2012 – most of these deaths were children under age five)
Diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are also on the radar of scientists. There was a time that these sexually transmitted diseases like these meant a death sentence…and they’re once again a problem that isn’t always treatable by the drugs we have available.
Doctors are more selective about antibiotic prescriptions now but it may be too little too late.
The Future of Antibiotic Resistance – What It Means to You
Only five major pharmaceutical companies are researching new antibiotics. As of 2008, only 15 of the 167 drugs under development have the potential to treat organisms with multi-drug resistance. None of them has been released to the marketplace.
Why isn’t more effort being devoted this issue? The simple answer is that there’s no real profit in antibiotic drug development. Antibiotics are short-term, taken to repair a specific problem.
Pharmaceutical companies would rather develop and market a drug that has to be taken for a long time (sometimes, for the rest of your life) like statins, antidepressants, and insulin.
You can survive without antibiotics and there may come a day in the very near future when you must. Here are some things you can do (right now) to minimize this threat in your daily life.
6 Ways to Minimize Antibiotic Resistance in Everyday Life
- Stop unnecessary antibiotic use for yourself and your children. Never take antibiotics (or ask them to be prescribed) for viral colds, flus, coughs, or sore throats. Experts estimate that 70% of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary.
- Discard unused antibiotics. Prescriptions lose potency over time and taking ineffectual antibiotics can lead to bacterial mutation and resistance. Take the full dose as prescribed and always ask for the shortest course available. Studies show that taking antibiotics for fewer days is just as effective.
- Never take antibiotics that are not prescribed to you. Killing “some” of the bacteria is an excellent way to mutate those that remain. Do not self-treat and assume that you require an antibiotic, especially not one that you haven’t been personally prescribed.
- Wash hands thoroughly. Skip the antibacterial soap varieties. Simply wash your hands for thirty seconds with standard hand soap for the same result without exposing yourself to unnecessary antibacterial compounds through the pores of your skin.
- Avoid antibiotics in your food supply. Buying organic where possible is an excellent way to cut many of the food source antibiotics from your diet. Specifically grass-fed and cage-free choices.
- Adopt healthy lifestyle choices. Good nutrition, exercise, proper hydration, and plenty of sleep may sound “old school” – but they work. Avoiding antibiotic resistance starts by doing everything you can to not get sick in the first place.
This is a real and growing issue in every country in the world. If left unaddressed, it could conceivably lead to a day when patients once again succumb to illnesses that claimed the lives of millions before the discovery of antibiotics.
Pharmaceutical companies say there is no money to be made in developing new antibiotics – so steeling yourself against antibiotic resistance is up to you, me, and every individual before it is too late.
Never underestimate the benefit of fresh air, sunshine, and good hygiene to lower your risk of infection and illness.
If the topic of natural, healthy antibiotics interests you, read more about them in my book “How To Survive in a World Without Antibiotics” right now!