The Alarming Case of Antibiotic Resistance
A new research report recently released indicates that pathogenic bacteria may be winning the war against antibiotics. The report issued by the Center for Disease Dynamics & Policy entitled “State of the World’s Antibiotics” identifies some serious concerns regarding global antibiotic use and the worsening state of antibiotic resistance worldwide.
Our antibiotics are becoming less and less effective against increasingly potent “superbugs,” and the report challenges the long-held belief that the biggest obstacle is a lack of new and more powerful antibiotics. Instead, the report focuses attention on the overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, which is at the heart of the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The study sheds light on which bacteria have become resistant to specific antibiotics and the means by which they achieve this resistance. It turns out that pathogenic bacteria might be a lot smarter than we thought. Specifically, bacteria become resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, not just one antibiotic at a time, as was previously thought. Furthermore, the pathogens share this information with each other. In other words, the bacteria cooperate with each other in developing higher resistance to antibiotics.
The report also found that the United States is the most antibiotic resistant country in the world, with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus showing 42 percent resistance to the class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones. This high number in the US is likely due to industrial farming practices in which antibiotics are routinely and heavily used on animals. Basically, farms have become breeding grounds for superbugs, especially multi–drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (also known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA), which kills 20,000 Americans every year—more than AIDS!
The non-profit group Friends of the Earth indicates that 70 to 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the US are on factory farms. This agricultural process needs to end immediately because there is no evidence that treating factory farm animals with antibiotics helps decrease rates of infection unless you take away the practices of overcrowding and abysmally filthy conditions that the animals are kept in.
The problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a serious one. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over two million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria yearly and at least 23,000 of them die annually from these aggressive pathogens.
The causes of antibiotic resistance are numerous and include excessive use of antibiotics in farm animals where these antibiotics enter our food supply, the use of antibiotics to treat viral infections such as flus and colds (remember antibiotics only have an effect on bacterial infections), the widespread and growing use of antibacterial soaps and personal care products, and flushing left-over antibiotics down the toilet, where they enter our water supply. What does this mean for you and I, the consumers? There are several things we can do to impact this serious health hazard to ourselves and our families.
Firstly, don’t rush to get an antibiotic when you are ill—when you think you have a bacterial infection try using naturally occurring antibacterial products such as Echinacea, golden seal, burdock root, or homeopathics. Secondly, stop purchasing meat and dairy products from factory-farmed animals; look for these products from humanely and organically raised animals. Thirdly, work on cleansing and detoxifying your body regularly so that your immune system stays strong and is less likely to succumb to disease.
Yours in infinite wellness,