Bacteria On Brink Of Victory
Tuesday, April 26th 2011
In the war between bugs and drugs, bacteria are on the cusp of a crushing victory.
Barely 70 years after antibiotics were introduced, the World Health Organisation has warned that the world could soon face a future without them – and New Zealand experts back the dire prediction.
In a World Health Day address, WHO director-general Margaret Chan said indiscriminate use of antibiotics has made bacterial infections increasingly resistant, with fewer and fewer antibiotics available to treat them.
"The world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, kill unabated."
Drug resistance was a natural process, but had been vastly accelerated by misuse, she said.
That included overuse, "sometimes to be on the safe side, sometimes in response to patient demand, but often for doctors and pharmacists to make more money"; underuse, when people did not complete a full course of antibiotics; and using the wrong type of antibiotic.
Dr Chan also criticised the massive routine use of antibiotics in industrialised food production, which accounts for half of all antibiotic use in some parts of the world. "The problem arises when drugs used for food production are medically important for human health, as ... pathogens that have developed resistance to drugs in animals can be transmitted to humans."
Attention had focused on hospital superbugs, such as MRSA, which kills tens of thousands of people each year, but the problem was much wider, Dr Chan said.
"In just the past year, nearly half a million people developed multidrug-resistant TB, and a third of them died as a result."
Even diarrhoea and common respiratory infections would become harder to treat.
Mark Jones, a clinical microbiologist at Wellington Hospital, said the warning was not an overstatement, and antibiotics would be useless "in a relatively short time", both in developing and developed countries.
"We're going to have to advance to the stage where we die of infections – we've got to be prepared for those days to return."
Vigorous infection prevention by hospitals would offer some protection, but was costly. "In Britain they're talking about moving towards single rooms for all patients."
Wellington Hospital kept a register of patients with multidrug-resistant infections, with five or six patients a day closely monitored and kept in isolation.
Mark Peterson, chairman of the Medical Association's GP council, said the problem was getting worse in New Zealand, though doctors were now much more careful about how they prescribed antibiotics. "We've seen a significant reduction over the last 10 years in the number of antibiotic prescriptions given."
Prescriptions for amoxicillin clavulanate, a generic antibiotic, dropped from a peak of nearly 1.2 million in 1996 to 800,000 last year, despite the growing population.
Food producers needed to do their part, too. "We need to limit the routine use of antibiotics, particularly in agriculture."
Crown research institute Environmental Science and Research monitors drug resistance in New Zealand, while the Health Ministry provides guidance on antibiotic use, control of multidrug-resistant infections and routine infection control programmes.
What you can do
- If you are prescribed antibiotics, complete the entire course, even if you're feeling better.
- If you have a viral infection, don't push your doctor for, or accept, antibiotics – they will have no effect.
- Practise good hygiene – including thorough hand-washing – to prevent the natural spread of bacteria.
- Avoid hospitals, rest homes, schools and other places if you are unwell.
- Encourage food producers to limit their use of antibiotics by buying organic food, especially meat.
Kate Newton. Sourced from Stuff, from The Dominion Post.'
Footnote from Ideal Health:
One of the MOST important things after taking an antibiotic is to replenish all the good bacteria that is depleted. This can be done by taking a probiotic supplement, such as Inner Health Plus.
The following products are all useful as Natural Antibiotics and for Immunity:
Comvita Olive Leaf Complex
Echinacea with Goldenseal Liquid
Garlicin CF - Immune Support Formula
Golden Seal Root
Hi-Dose Vitamin C
Inner Health Plus
Inner Health Plus Dairy Free
Immune Booster for Kids
Organic Winter Guard
Propolis Capsules PFL15
Propolis Mouth Spray
Superior Olive Leaf
Related health information can be found here:
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If you need help or advice, you are welcome to email our naturopathic team with your health question.
Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered. The information is not intended to be comprehensive or to provide medical advice to you. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.
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