By Kennedy Shelley
There was no doubt that for years antibiotics were too widely prescribed.
Even if a doctor knew you had a viral infection, they would often prescribe an antibiotic “just in case.”
The result was a growing number of germs that were becoming more resistant to the antibiotics that used to kill infections.
It is possible for most of us to overlook the importance of antibiotics in keeping us alive.
A simple cut or scrape could easily turn into a life-threatening injury. Common sexually transmitted diseases would cause madness and death. Blood infections could turn into fatal illnesses.
In 1934 when Dr. Fleming introduced the world to penicillin all that changed. For nearly a hundred years life expectancy continued to grow as we were able to beat many infections that used to kill people by the millions.
Without antibiotics, doctors are forced with the choice of cutting out the infected tissue or just isolating the patient to keep the infection from spreading to others and allowing them to die on their own.
And lack of antibiotics will make surgeries like hip replacements very dangerous procedures.
In short, we can’t afford to look at antibiotics as cheap commodities that we can just take without any thought to the future. We are not really creating any new antibiotics, the ones we have are becoming less effective and the germs are fighting back.
New research that was unveiled in the respected journal Nature shows that some of the so-called “Super Bugs” are getting more antibiotic-resistant despite our efforts.
These scary germs are adopting and mutating to avoid our best antibiotic treatments. In short, they are getting resistance genes.
The bugs also seem to be acquiring new genetic material to avoid eradication.
They will even hide by going dormant during antibiotic treatments in order not to be destroyed.
Just how big is the problem? In the US nearly 2 million will develop some antibiotic-resistant infection this year. It will kill 23,000 of them.
Darwin described the idea of survival of the fittest, we are seeing that happening quickly in the germ world.
ANTIBIOTIC CONTROL MAY NOT BE ENOUGH
The mechanism germs use to get around our antibiotic treatments is a small piece of DNA called “plasmids.” These small fragments of genetic material are not only spread to other species of the same germ, but they are also picked up by other germs.
That means that a resistant germ may be helping to create the next generation of superbugs.
“By exploiting their persistent host bacterium, the resistance plasmids can survive for a prolonged period in one host before transferring into other bacteria,” explains co-senior author Wolf-Dietrich Hardt, a professor at ETH Zurich.
With this new knowledge, scientists are now developing new strategies to use probiotics, building up the immune system and avoiding infections altogether.
As one of the professors, Médéric Diard, of the study said:
“Restricting the use of antibiotics is important and […] indeed the right thing to do, but this measure alone is not sufficient to prevent the spread of resistance.”
Antibiotics are not a “get out of jail free” card. They are important tools, but we have to realize that nature does fight back against our best efforts to stop infections.
They do work wonders at stopping infections that may kill us unless treated, but they also kill helpful bacteria that are good at keeping us healthy.
It is almost impossible to medicate ourselves out of a bad lifestyle, so the more you can do to maintain your own healthy immune system, the better off you are in the long term.