Antibiotics will prove to be either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse of modern medicine, depending on how they are used over the next decade. As powerful medicines that combat harmful bacteria, modern antibiotics have saved many lives since their discovery in the 1930s.
Over the next 40 years, from 1940 to 1980, antibiotics would go on to save millions of lives and would be known for several generations as a “miracle drug.” Over the next 30 years, however, doctors began to prescribe antibiotics in an extraordinarily casual manner. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it were not for the remarkable plasticity of the microbes they target.
Bacteria, both good and bad, have been around for a very long time, likely because of their impressive ability to adapt to a changing environment. When confronted with an aggressive attacker like penicillin, bacteria had to adapt or perish. So, adapt they did.
In March of 2012, Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that some bacteria were growing so resistant to modern antibiotics that it could bring about “the end of modern medicine as we know it.” As a result, every antibiotic ever developed is presently at risk of becoming useless, making routine operations impossible and common infections potentially fatal, just as they were a century ago.
If antibiotic resistance from overuse in the human market is the elephant in the room, then the use of antibiotics in animals raised for food is the 800 pound gorilla in the closet. According to a recent New York Times article, — “Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States goes to chicken, pigs, cows and other animals that people eat, yet producers of meat and poultry are not required to report how they use the drugs — which ones, on what types of animal, and in what quantities.”
So, copious amounts of tetracyclines (a class of broad-spectrum antibiotics) are added to animal feed as “growth promoters,” to help perfectly healthy animals grow faster. And since meat and poultry producers are not required to report the use, there is no data for scientists to study when things go wrong. What concerns me most about this is that the medical establishment is panicking about the misuse of the 20%, but almost no one is raising the alarm about the wave of the other 80% which is about to crash on the linchpin of modern pharmaceutics.
“There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” – Sir Alexander Fleming, December 11, 1945
Want to learn about other ways to keep your body healthy? Call me, Dr. Linda, at 773.385.9432 to set up an appointment to discuss.