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Are Humans Doomed to Return to the Pre-Antibiotic Era?

February 15, 2016

Are Humans Doomed to Return to the Pre-Antibiotic Era?

Life Without Antibiotics

Even small infections would prove fatal if we lose the effectiveness of antibiotics – and it very much looks like that is happening.

Doctors administer antibiotics to treat serious bacterial infections. At the beginning of the 20th century, pneumonia, tuberculosis and diarrhea were the top three leading causes of death. Now at the beginning of the 21st century, very few people living in developed countries die from these diseases, thanks in large part to the use of antibiotics.

Many bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics today, however, and the problem seems to be growing worse.

About Antibiotics and Bacteria

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria or interfering with the way bacteria reproduce. Bacteria are not defenseless against antibiotics – they fight back by changing their own structure. The single-cell organisms can change their own genetic makeup to develop weapons to assault the antibiotic molecules or the bacteria can modify their cell walls to prevent the antibiotic from getting inside. The bacteria then pass these genetic changes onto all of their descendants. Bacteria can even exchange genetic material simply by touching one another, spreading resistance to bacteria that had not yet been exposed to an antibiotic.

Antibiotic resistance makes it more difficult to control infectious diseases. Resistance reduces the effectiveness of treatment so patients stay sick longer, which gives the infection more time to spread to other people.

Antibiotic Use – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 

Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928. Doctors began using penicillin in 1945 to treat surgical and wound infections among Allied Forces troops. People at the time hailed penicillin as a miracle drug and many envisioned a future free from infectious diseases. Fleming was not so easily convinced, however, as he warned that bacteria could become resistant to antibiotics in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize.

Unfortunately, Fleming’s predictions are beginning to come true. Antibiotic- resistant bacteria infect about 2 million people in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and more than 23,000 people die from these infections annually. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), for example, is resistant to a large number of the antibiotics currently available. MRSA is a serious problem in the United States and in the rest of the world.

Antibiotics in the Food Chain 

The intestines of all animals contain bacteria; some of the bacteria are harmful to food animals, so farmers give antibiotics to the animals. Antibiotics kill most of the pathogens but some bacteria become resistant and remain in the intestines. These bacteria can contaminate the meat or other animal products during slaughter and processing. The bacteria can also enter the soil and ground water when the animal defecates; the pathogens may spread to produce irrigated with contaminated water.

Many people are surprised to learn that antibiotics like Streptomycin and Oxytetracycline are registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use on 16 fruit, vegetable and ornamental fruit crops to help prevent plant diseases including apples, beans, potatoes, tomatoes and pears just to name a few.  Up to 16 percent of all apple acreage and up to 40 percent of all pear acreage in the U.S. get sprayed with antibiotics each year, so it’s not just those who consume meat who need to be alert to this growing trend. In fact it was only in October of 2014 that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) banned the use of these antibiotics in foods labeled “organic”.

What Does This Mean For Us?

Given the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture, the future is uncertain. What will happen next? Unfortunately, nobody knows. Simple and common infections, such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia and bloodstream infections may become as difficult to treat as they were before the era of antibiotics. Infectious diseases, like tuberculosis, may again become a leading cause of death. Left unaddressed, antibiotic resistance may force humans to face a future where even small infections are fatal, just as it was in the age before Alexander Fleming made his famous discovery.

What we do know is that we rely on a healthy, functioning internal ecosystem of bacteria in our digestive system to survive. Keeping this ecosystem of good bacteria (your microbiota) alive and healthy is essential to good health, which is where probiotics come in. But in addition, we need to make sure we are making the right choices in the lifestyle we live, the diet we eat and the supplements we select. In a world where bad-bacteria is aggressively changing its defenses and taking new forms, it simply makes sense to give the good bacteria every possible chance to thrive by taking a daily probiotic such as Natren Healthy Trinity, to boost the population and health of your inner gut flora. Our probiotics have been carefully developed to survive transport, refrigerated shelf life and stomach acid ensuring they get to the right place in the digestive system where they can flourish.

The post Are Humans Doomed to Return to the Pre-Antibiotic Era? appeared first on Natren Probiotics Blog.




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