For years I have preached of antibiotic resistance. MRSA was one of the first red flags. Many in healthcare take resistance seriously but not all. As a matter of fact, I would say medical practitioners as a whole who have the greatest understanding of this, struggle the most-- perhaps because of their familiarity and camaraderie with these tools. Perhaps they do not realize the long.........reach they have when they write their RX. MDs are a small piece of the pie though as 80% of antibiotics are given to animals.
When I took Bacteriology in college, I soon realized that microbes were not to be taken lightly. Their ability to reproduce rapidly leads to the uncanny ability to mutate rapidly also--simply by accident.
Why does this matter? Antibiotic resistance... Germs can adapt very fast. Grossly faster than us.... Simply due to the nature of their reproduction. Imagine if we had to wait to see if other generations of humans would develop immunity? We would we waiting a long time. Our great grandkids could discuss it at our homily. Bacteria find this out in an instant-- reproducing rapidly. In 10 minutes a colony can double. Now add to that that there are 40MM germs in a gram of dirt and you can see why I am concerned. We throw an antibiotic at a germ, it mutates develops resistance, and continues its assault on us. (1)
So Why do I Care?
Pretty simple really. Fast-forward 20-30 years. You or your loved ones are dying in a hospital from something as simple as strep throat. The bacteria win the fight against you and neither you nor your doctor has an arrow in their quiver to launch at the germ because big pharma has not kept up with the germs. They actually couldn't if they wanted to. Now add to that that they don't want to. Instead, big pharma spends their dollars on erections. Little is allotted to this field because it is not profitable. I can't say that I blame the managers there. Their goal is profit and to raise stock prices right? Why invest in a drug that the bacteria can figure out in 10 minutes and that your local grocery store gives away? A failure of Capitalism I suppose? A missed opportunity? Not enough incentive? Take your pick...
Still Not Scared? "Replicon Activate!"
Well, "that will never happen to me"... Hmmm. Let me tell you about a plasmid (dna piece). A cute little replicon that sounds like something out of a Transformer movie. It's a cute little trick mother nature gave bacteria to pass their "antibiotic-resistant torch" on their death bed to ensure their kin still have a whack at you. So now their bacterial friends in the room don't even have to wait 10 minutes to see if they won the lottery on defeating you. A plasmid passively wafts their way carrying the code to take you down...
What Are We Waiting For?
I guess it is easy to cry ignorance for awhile, much like when you missed the recycling container and ignored the repercussions. Unfortunately, far too many are playing this game and soon it will be check mate. We rely on government and apparently government has blinders on. In a John Hopkins and Arizona State study in 2012, Fluoroquinolone signatures were found in hen feed. You know of Fluoroquinolone because they are Cipro and other antibiotics in the same family. You know, the broad-spectrum antibiotics we rely on for emergencies. Yet it seems they were given to chickens likely in the name of a chicken sale. BTW, these were outlawed by the FDA in 2005 for this use. So the FDA is allowing the industry to regulate itself according to FDA guidance documents. As you can see, this is failing.
What Do I Do???
- First, avoid antibiotics until necessary. So often we jump on antibiotics for something viral like the common cold or flu. These are viruses, antibiotics are designed very specifically for bacteria. Err on the side of disuse over excessive use.
- Buy Organics! Buying Organics shows industry that we are not going to stand for antibiotics or other tinkering like preservatives in our food to prolong shelf life. Preservatives themselves are probably the greatest uncontrolled experiment in history.
- In your mind you should be thinking Soap, Alcohol, pH, Acids, and other Bactericidal elements to use that actually do not promote resistance to attacking germs. In general they also do not lead to disinfection by-products. Chlorine is great at killing just about anything but it often leaves behind chlorine disinfection by products that may be hazardous themselves. Chlorine is extremely electronegative and the strongest oxidizing agent so I like to stay away from it for every-day jobs. When you see "antibacterial", run away. That means it kills some germs while allowing many to survive and possibly develop resistance. The best Organic approach is to use essential oils and soaps when possible to minimize disinfection by products and discourage bacteria from evolving to overtake us- just kill them. Think Bactericidal not Bacteriostatic. You will find that in a bacteriology laboratory "alcohol" is used to clean the workbenches.
- You will frequently find me squeezing fresh lemons on my table at Panera and wiping it down. I suspect the dirty rag they wipe the table with very likely is covered in colonies of germs. Lemon juice is highly acidic and will kill most bacteria.
- Washing hands is grand of course. But be much more conscious and incredibly defensive of when and how often. You may think these germs are accidentally "crashing into you" only through non-organic meats but how about a paper cut? Why not hitching a ride while just shaking hands? It is happening. HGT, aka Horizontal Gene Transfer via those Plasmid guys I mentioned is leading to Antibiotic Resistance on a massive scale and may soon return us to the days where we have no antibiotics to use-- a time when strep throat killed. (3)