What You Can Do About the Growing Epidemic of Antibiotic Resistance
In the right situation, the use of an antibiotic can save a life.
How much is too much when it comes to antibiotic use? In 2010 alone, more than 12 million pounds of tetracycline was given to livestock in the US, seriously tainting our food supply.
This is exactly what happened in 2004 when Everly Macario’s 17-month old son, Simon, was killed within 24 hours of an MRSA infection. (1)
MRSA, also called multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a bacterium that has developed resistance to a number of common antibiotics, including:
- “Last-resort” antibiotics like vancomycin
S. aureus itself is relatively harmless. It is found on the skin and in the mucus membranes of roughly one third of the world population. When given the chance, however, a staph infection can range from bothersome (pimples) to life-threatening (meningitis and sepsis).
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Archives of Internal Medicine, drug-resistant staph:
- Kills up to 19,000 people per year.
- Causes at least 7 million primary care and ER (emergency room) visits per year.
- Is responsible for nearly 100,000 serious blood infections a year. (2)(3)
At the same time, companies that make antibiotics are choosing to not manufacture any drugs to treat multidrug-resistant strains of S. aureus. Their argument? Quickly developed resistance by superbugs like MRSA undermines profit. (4)
Since the death of her son, Everly Macario founded the MRSA Research Center at the University of Chicago and was one of the first mothers to join Moms for Antibiotic Awareness.
Everly explains that, “Simon…died from an infection because the antibiotics we relied on had become useless. Simon's death sounded an alarm that my fellow moms across this country need to hear: antibiotics are increasingly ineffective against life-threatening infections, and the lives of our children and loved ones are at stake.”
Staph aureus is not the only bug that has a resistance to several commonly used antibiotics. Others bacteria include:
- E. coli and Salmonella, which come directly from contaminated food.
- Clostridium difficile, a bug responsible for debilitating chronic diarrhea and colitis.
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the species responsible for most cases of tuberculosis (TB).
Some bacteria are resistant to all antibiotic drugs. This can be dangerous because bacteria are especially good at communicating resistance at a genetic level - and across species.
The Overuse of Antibiotics in the Health Care Industry
Last year, Dr. Hughes, a professor of global health and medicine at Emory University, made a formal plea on the matter in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). (5) At the time, as much as 50% of antibiotic use was deemed as “either unnecessary or inappropriate.” Hughes asks fellow physicians to act responsibly and reminds us that antibiotic resistance is “a growing global public health threat.”
Antibiotics are in our food supply.
Some of the most used antibiotics in health care, penicillin and tetracycline, are also given to the livestock used in food production. Antibiotics are used to promote growth in animals and to prevent infection.
In 2010, tetracycline made up 42% of all antibiotics given to food-producing animals in the United States. (6)
- Approximately 12,300,000 pounds of tetracycline were given to animals, while just over 100,000 pounds were sold for human use.
- Over 1.9 million pounds of penicillin were sold for animal use, while close to 1.5 million pounds were distributed for human use.
The widespread use of antibiotics in industrial farming contributes to antibiotic resistance. The solution? Sanitary conditions for animals that promote healthy immune function and the judicious use of antibiotics - that is, only use antibiotics on animals when necessary.
The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have all testified before Congress that there is a definitive link between the use of antibiotics in food animal production and resistance in humans.
In spite of what we know, getting policy in place to change antibiotic use in industrial farming is slow going. In the meantime, remember that:
- Whether or not you know it, you vote with your dollar.
- Whenever possible, choose only animal foods that are humanely raised in clean facilities on small farms, without the routine and non-discriminate use of antibiotic therapy.
Building Your Immunity Is Critical
Simply keeping your immune system strong is another excellent way to reduce your need for an antibiotic.
- A healthy inner ecology naturally boosts immune function. Eat plenty of fermented foods and drink probiotic beverages like Coconut Water Kefir and CocoBiotic, which will contribute to the good bacteria in the gut.
- A diet rich in whole foods and low in processed sugars and refined oils will also boost resistance to infection.
- Proper food combining at meals helps maintain an alkaline environment. Try Vitality SuperGreen in the morning when the body is more acidic and Ancient Earth Minerals throughout the day to give cells the minerals they need.
- High Vitamin D levels naturally support the body’s immune system. A high-quality fermented fish oil is an excellent source of vitamin D.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
While antibiotics are intended to save lives in certain circumstances, bacteria can develop into drug-resistant superbugs that can't be killed by common antibiotics. For this reason, antibiotic resistance is becoming a growing public health epidemic.
Today, antibiotics are misused in the health care industry. Antibiotics are also abused in food production, leading to large amounts of antibiotics in our food supply!
To protect yourself from serious infections that may be resistant to antibiotics, it's critical to build your immune health first of all by using the following tips:
- Eat fermented foods and drink probiotic beverages to support gut health with friendly bacteria.
- Eat plenty of whole foods without processed sugars and refined oils to resist infection.
- Try food combining at every meal to aid in digestion and keep the body alkaline.
- Take a high-quality fermented fish oil to support your vitamin D intake and naturally build immunity.
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- BC Herold, et al. Community-acquired methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in children with no identified predisposing risk. JAMA. 1998;279(8):593-598.
- AL Hersh, et al. National trends in ambulatory visits and antibiotic prescribing for skin and soft-tissue infections. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(14):1585-1591.
- McKenna M. Man vs. MRSA. Nature. February 2012; 482, 23–25.
- Hughes, James. Preserving the lifesaving power of antimicrobial agents. JAMA. Published online February 22, 2011.
- MJ Gilchrist, et al. The potential role of concentrated animal feeding operations in infectious disease epidemics and antibiotic resistance. Environ Health Perspect 2007;115:313-6.
- AE Waters. Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in US Meat and Poultry. Clin Infect Dis. 2011 May;52(10):1227-30. Epub 2011 Apr 15.
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