Germs, bugs, viruses. When you were a child, all of these were lumped together. You didn’t necessarily know what they were but you knew they were bad for you. If you suffered anything from an infected cut to a severe cold, you were taken to the doctor.
You probably left with an antibiotic to take care of your troubles.
We’re a little wiser these days. Now we know that all bacteria aren’t bad. Many of those in your body are actually necessary for your survival. If you’re a health-savvy individual, you may have a few containers of pro-biotic yogurt in your refrigerator at all times for better digestion – made possibly by “good” gut flora.
Victims of the Cure
Some viruses are being manipulated by science to battle diseases such as HIV. Scientific cases of the attacker being used to fight itself. Not all the news is good news.
Unfortunately, many of the antibiotics prescribed for decades are no longer effective because the bacteria they were used to combat are now immune. We’re becoming victims of the cure.
Penicillin was discovered in 1928. At the time, it was a miracle cure. Before the discovery of the first antibiotic, anything from syphilis to splinters could and often did lead to death. Once an infection entered the body, it spread rapidly.
With the dawn of antibiotics, science believed it had finally conquered infection. The general opinion was that humans could not survive without antibiotics. That prediction held true for 33 years.
The Evolution of the Superbug
In 1961, the first case of what would become known as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) was diagnosed in the United Kingdom. MRSA, as its name suggests, is a staph infection that’s immune to methicillin, a potent antibiotic.
The dangerous truth is that MRSA isn’t the only “superbug” out there. Looking to ESKAPE? Don’t go to your nearest hospital. ESKAPE is an acronym for Enterococcus, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, and Enterobacter.
These are the most common organisms found in the standard hospital environment.
Hospital-acquired infections kill at least 48,000 people every year. That is three times more than the number of people who die annually from HIV. With the passage of time and the overuse of prescribed antibiotics, many organisms have developed an immunity to treatment.
The same is true with old diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. One night’s indiscretion once meant an embarrassing visit to the doctor and an injection. Now, once again, it can mean a death sentence.
Even tuberculosis is reappearing on the medical horizon. Resistant strains are popping up in various areas of the world. Once curable, nearly 1.5 million people die from this ancient disease every year. More than 500,000 of those infected suffer from a strain that is resistant to treatment.
Doctors are being more selective about antibiotics these days. No longer does every frantic parent who brings in a child with a runny nose leave with an antibiotic prescription. Regrettably, it may be too little too late.
There is another source of antibiotic resistance. It has only recently become a topic of serious discussion. You may be surprised to learn that much of the fault lies on your dinner table.
Antibiotics and Our Food Supply
Were you planning to enjoy a steak tonight? Perhaps some ham or chicken instead? If the meat you purchased was not organic then you may be unknowingly ingesting mass quantities of antibiotics.
Today, more than 80% of antibiotics distributed in the United States are not given to humans. Instead, they are being force-fed to healthy animals. The logic is that antibiotics promote growth and creates healthier food.
One small side effect is that it is increasing the cases of drug-resistant E Coli and salmonella.
Science Will Save Us!
We can look to the medical and scientific communities for answers. Right? They’ve done it before and they can do it again.
You may not like the answer to that question.
When Jonas Salk cured Polio in 1955, he made the compassionate choice to give it away for the benefit of humanity as a whole. His selfless decision has improved the lives of millions.
Only five major pharmaceutical companies are currently 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 to something that is a major catastrophe waiting to happen?
Sadly, the answer is money. For example, it is far more lucrative for the pharmaceutical giants to focus their resources on a new diabetic drug that a patient has to take once a day for the rest of their life. An antibiotic that is a one-dose cure all isn’t going to put profits in their pockets.
We have options. Can you survive without antibiotics? Yes, you can. There are dietary choices you can make such as buying foods labeled organic or antibiotic free whenever possible.