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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:
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:
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:
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.
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)
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:
Simply keeping your immune system strong is another excellent way to reduce your need for an antibiotic.
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:
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