I am not sure if you saw this in the news, my ears pricked up because I have been following antimicrobial resistance issues since university, this April the World Health Organization released their first report on global antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic & antifungal) resistance.
I read the report "Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance 2014". To tell the truth I have been a bit paralyzed in a state of shock since reading the report – I knew it was bad, but I didn’t really realize how bad things have gotten. REALLY BAD.
From the report this is “…a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine. A post-antibiotic era—in which common infections and minor injuries can kill—far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”
Despite several valiant attempts to stick my head in the sand and not think about it, I keep returning to this issue. I guess it is just not my nature to turn a blind eye…le-sigh. My first thought re: a solution was the establishment of a new world order that recognizes the value of traditional knowledge…in the interim I thought I would share what I have learned over the years re: antimicrobial resistance, use and the alternatives…and some good news!
This a 3 part blog:
Part 1 – 5 Easy Things You Can Do To Reduce Antimicrobial Resistance
Part 2 – Alternatives to Medicinal Antimicrobial Use
Part 3 – Antimicrobial Resistance – The Science Stuff
Things I have learned about antimicrobial resistance - a primer:
Who is affected?
Antimicrobial resistance is a global issue that affects people from all walks of life, but is of particular significance for the young, the elderly and anyone who is immune compromised, e.g. chemotherapy patients, people with immune disorders, people battling chronic illnesses, etc.
What is going on?
Pathogenic microbes (bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi) are developing resistance to all of our antimicrobial agents (antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics, and antifungals). These ‘superbugs’ are evolving faster than we are developing new antimicrobial agents to kill them. As a result simple infections – like bladder, ear, and candidiasis infections - are increasingly resistant to antimicrobial treatments and posing serious health concerns.
Is this happening now?
Yes. The World Health Organization is predicting that a ‘post antibiotic world’ is a very real possibility during this century. Today, health care workers are encountering an increasing number of antibiotic resistant infections.
Where are the 'superbugs'?
Antimicrobial resistant ‘superbugs’ used to be mainly confined to hospital environments where antimicrobial use was high and many pathogens were prevalent. Sadly this is no longer the case and ‘superbugs’ have spread into the community and our homes.
Why is this happening?
We are overusing and misusing antimicrobial agents - from the antimicrobial/bacterial soaps, cleaners and spays we use around our homes to the broad spectrum antibiotics used prophylacticly and as growth promoters in our livestock industries.
How are 'superbugs' spreading so fast?
Every time we misuse an antimicrobial we are breeding ‘superbugs’. To make matters worse ‘superbugs’ are generous and they share their antimicrobial resistance with other pathogens – even other species of pathogens.
The good news
There is evidence that suggests that ‘superbugs’ will drop their antimicrobial resistance if it is no longer needed – meaning that if ‘superbugs are no longer exposed to antimicrobials they will revert back to plain old regular pathogens that can be killed by antimicrobials.
Even better news
There are lots of things that you can do to reduce antimicrobial resistance and there are effective, natural treatments available for the pathogens that you and your family may encounter.
5 Easy Things You Can Do To Reduce Antimicrobial Resistance
1. Ditch: Antibacterial soaps, cleaners & sprays
Why: You are breeding ‘superbugs’ in your home and weakening your body’s ability to fight pathogens.
Alternative: soap – plain soap
Alternative: natural cleaners, white vinegar or infused vinegar DIY
Alternative: natural, herbal based hand sanitizers DIY
2. Ditch: Antibiotic topical lotions, salves, drops, etc. (e.g. Polysporn, Neosporin)
Why: You are breeding superbugs in your body for no reason - most wounds will heal without the use of antibiotics.
Alternative: Herbal topical preparations (see Part 2 for more information)
Alternative: Homeopathic treatment (see Part 2 for more information)
3. Ditch: Oral antimicrobials/antibiotics for minor ailments and infections (e.g. colds, flus, ear infections, bladder/urinary tract infections, yeast infections, etc.)
Why: Save the big guns (antimicrobials) for when they are really needed, i.e. life threatening infections, organ transplant patients, people undergoing chemotherapy & radiation treatments, etc.).
Alternative: Targeted herbal & nutritional support (see Part 2 for more information)
Alternative: Homeopathy (see Part 2 for more information)
4. Ditch: Animal products (meat, fish, eggs & dairy) raised using antibiotics
Why: Antibiotic use in animal husbandry & aquaculture is breeding ‘superbugs’.
Alternative: Antibiotic free meat, eggs & dairy products
Alternative: Sustainably harvested fish (look for the SeaChoice logo)
Alternative: Increase you intake of plant based proteins – beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
5. Take your all of your antibiotics as prescribed
Why: Unless you are experiencing serious side effects, you need to complete the full course of antimicrobials as prescribed to eradicate the pathogens in your system. Otherwise, you will only be killing off the weakest ones and allowing the strongest most resistant ones to survive and thrive – you will be breeding ‘superbugs’ in your body.
Talk to your healthcare provider about taking probiotics during or after taking your antimicrobials to lessen any digestive issues, reduce the risk of candiada (yeast infection), and strengthen your immune system.