Drug resistance involving antibiotics is a very real and dangerous reality.
This year kicked off with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) releasing new rules governing the use of antibiotics in livestock — farmers are now forbidden from administering antibiotics or growth hormones to healthy animals.
Since Penicillin was first used in 1943, an evolutionary arms race has been escalating between bacteria and our antibiotic drugs, and right now we are losing that war. Before the discovery and synthesis of antibiotics, the smallest cut could lead to infections that could kill you, unless your body was able to fight it off. In 1942, if you were to accidentally scratch your arm on a thorny bush, you may be lucky to survive. Over the next 75 years following antibiotic discovery, we as a species exploded across the face of the planet. Without the risk of death from a small cut or injury, we thrived.
However, the mass abuse of antibiotics has led to drug resistance where bacteria trumps the antibiotics. Industrial scale farming, along with needless prescriptions and widespread availability has pushed us to the edge of a precipice.
According to the recently released Review on Antimicrobial Resistance commissioned by the UK government, by 2050, up to 10 million lives a year will be at risk because of infections dealing with drug resistance. Many experts and governments are warning of the coming “antibiotic apocalypse,” when our drugs will become utterly ineffective and disease will run rampant. Former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, was very vocal on the issue, declaring that:
“If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the Dark Ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again.”
How Do We Solve This Problem?
There is, however, a big debate at the center of this issue. The two main schools of thought: 1. that we need to pump money into new and innovative antibiotic treatments or 2. we need to minimize antibiotic use in the hope that we can prevent resistant strains from developing further.
At last year’s G7 Summit, David Cameron proposed the creation of a $1.6 billion a year global fund to reward pharmaceutical companies that develop drugs to fight “superbugs,” although the plan hasn’t been mentioned by the government since his resignation. In the U.S. in 2016, President Obama doubled the federal funding allocated to fight drug resistance, bumping it to $1.2 billion. At least global leaders now recognize that we have a problem, although it may be too late by the time real action, in the form of strict antibiotic regulation, is taken. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that we are in the “post-antibiotic era.”
Every time a new antibiotic is developed, bacteria begins to develop a resistance to these new drugs. The CDC just reported a case where a Nevada women returning from India, developed drug resistance to all forms of antibiotics! Incredibly, bacteria can reproduce in 20 minutes – passing on drug resistance genes to the next generation, while multiplying at a phenomenal rate, while antibiotic development can takes 10 years. Because of these difficulties, drug companies have been reluctant to invest in antibiotics, because they become obsolete so quickly. The year 2017 will mark 30 years since the last class of antibiotics, Lipopeptides, were discovered.
We spoke to Olivia Duff, who has worked as a nurse for over 40 years, to get a medical perspective on the drug resistance issue. She feels that the blame lies with the doctors who have been too quick to give out prescriptions for antibiotics:
“The doctors will write you a prescription for antibiotics, even when colds and flu are normally viral infections. But people will go in and ask for these drugs, it is a two-way street.”
Certainly there is some blame with those of us who misuse the drugs, but doctors have been heavily criticized and asked to reign back their willingness to write a prescription. Meanwhile consumers have been urged not to follow directions and not overuse the drugs, or pressure their doctor into giving them antibiotics.
Drug Resistance And Antibiotics In Industrial Farming
The mass overuse of antibiotics in livestock has been a massive contributing factor in the projected antibiotic apocalypse. This is increasingly known as Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). In the U.S., 70 percent of antibiotics are currently consumed by animals; the industrial farming industry uses antibiotics heavily to fatten up livestock, and protect them from infection — a measure which would be unnecessary if animals were kept in cleaner humane environments.
In China a strain of bacteria, in both humans and cows, has been shown to be resistant to Colistin, an antibiotic so strong it is normally only used as a last resort. Earlier in 2016, something truly horrifying occurred when a virulent strain of E. coli, resistant to colistin, reached the United States. So bacteria are already evolving to defeat our strongest drugs — if we somehow escape the antibiotic apocalypse, our livestock may not suffer the same fate. This could very well lead to widespread meat and dairy shortages if the problem is allowed to get out of hand.
Antibiotics can fight bacteria by interfering with their metabolism, attacking their DNA and preventing them from multiplying, or by tearing apart the outside of the bacteria itself. However, bacteria have evolved to intercept antibiotics before they reach them. Some have even developed biological systems that dispel the antibiotics from inside the bacteria before they can cause any harm.
In a recent Ted Talk, Dr. Maryn McKenna outlined just how quickly widespread resistance can evolve: Penicillin was discovered in 1943, and bacterial resistance to the drug was seen by 1945; Vancomycin was discovered in 1972, with resistance identified by 1988; and most recently Daptomycin needed only one year from discovery in 2003, to resistance in 2004. Bacteria are becoming ever more resistant to our advances. Perhaps the reality is that antibiotics were only a Band-Aid in the first place.
Maryn McKenna: What do we do when antibiotics don’t work any more?
Natural Antibiotic Alternatives
There are many alternative treatments to antibiotics that we at HoneyColony recommend. A few examples that can be explored:,
- Raw garlic or ginger have both been proven to help naturally boost the immune system.
- Numerous herbs like holy thistle, juniper, and burdock have all been known to have antibacterial properties.
- Honey is actually an incredible natural medicine which has been shown to be as effective as commercial antibiotics. Crucially honey will not develop resistance as it fights bacteria in several different ways.
- Colloidal silver is the most effective way to help treat bacterial infections as a substitute for antibiotics.
- Chelated silver works like colloidal silver, but has a much higher bio availability.
- Finally vitamin C is crucial in a diet to ward off disease before it can take root in your system.
There are dietary changes that can be made to improve our immune system which in turn reduces our reliance on drugs for our health and well-being. All of these treatments should be the first choice to treat mild illness, with antibiotics being left as a last resort.
Josh Hamilton is an aspiring journalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland, living in London, Ontario. Lover of music, politics, tech and life.
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