The Growing Antibiotic Resistance
10 Marine Log // April 2018
This resistance means that when a patient is given an antibiotic the little “superbugs” survive the onslaught. Their defensive play kills over 23,000 people annually. The WEF estimates that by 2050 deaths from antibiotic resistant infections will top cancer deaths at over 10 million and will potentially stunt global economic growth. Spurring on this resistance in the U.S. is
The war we waged on bacteria with antibiotics to save lives has ironically become the very mechanism that now takes lives. the over prescribing and use of antibiotics in 50% of cases. The CDC estimates that 47 million prescriptions annually are ill prescribed, putting patients at risk for the side effects of the medication, and the community at risk for the further development of “superbugs.” Resistance to antibiotics does not just come from human medical prescriptions, it also comes from the ever growing presence of these drugs in our environment, particularly in the food we eat. Livestock, not humans, are the predominant recipients of antibiotics, and as the saying goes, you are what you eat. Thus, when you consume
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ntibiotics are a vital tool in a physicians fight against deadly bacterial infections. However in the past few years the World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Economic Forum (WEF), and others have raised an alarm about the overuse of these drugs due to their impact on health and the economy. Antibiotics are the number one prescribed medication in America for infections, totaling over 266 million human-outpatient prescriptions annually (835 prescriptions for every 1,000 people). The first development and use of antibiotics was in the 1920s with the invention of penicillin. It was, and still is, a “miracle drug” saving lives from bacterial infections. These drugs generally work in one of four ways: (1) They can stop bacteria from building a strong defensive cell wall; (2) They can disrupt the bacteria’s ability to function by changing how it makes proteins; (3) They can stop the ability of the bacteria to make folic acid-needed for survival, and (4) They can prevent the proper replication of the bacteria’s DNA. All four of these disruptions to a bacteria’s normal function would lead to death, however the blow these pills perpetrate is not quite as deadly as it once was. Bacteria are an ever-evolving bunch of organisms with hardcore programming to aid their survival. When they are under attack, they quickly develop mechanisms to counter attack. The war we waged on bacteria with antibiotics to save lives has ironically become the very mechanism that now takes lives. The bacteria we hope to kill have become resistant to our killing mechanisms.
livestock that has been raised on antibiotic laced feed you too shall be affected. In 2010, farmers around the world used more than 63,000 tons of antibiotics to raise livestock. By 2030, this number is estimated to top 100,000 tons. The FDA is quick to point out on their 2012 Report on Antimicrobial Sold and Distributed for use in Food Producing Animals, that 40% of the antibiotics given to livestock were not medically necessary. As a consumer of both medical services and food, individuals can help decrease their own exposure to antibiotics and curb the increasing use of them in the environment. 1. A Conversation: If a visit to the doctor evolves into a prescription for antibiotics, the CDC recommends the following: Ask your healthcare professional if there are steps you can take to feel better and get relief from your symptoms without using antibiotics. The CDC also points out that antibiotics “should never be taken for a viral infection like a cold or the flu, most sore throats, most coughs and bronchitis, many sinus or many ear infections”. The drugs will be “ineffective on these conditions, even though they are often prescribed for them”. 2. Changing Expectations-A cold/flu is going to take time to get over. The body needs time to heal. 3. Your Food Choices: When possible, make food choices that are antibiotic free. 4. Special Note For Sailors: Many antibiotics identify that one should not be operating heavy equipment when taking them. This has the potential to take you out of a “Fit-for-Duty” status under your Merchant Mariner Medical Certificate and/or your company’s medical fitness requirements. Make sure you discuss your ability to work or not to work due to side effects of medications you are taking with your doctor. Our choices will play a role in navigating our health, and how effectively we slow the advancement of bacterial resistance at large. Next month, we’ll cover the role of antibiotics and their impact on gut health. Nothing in this article constitutes medical advice. All medical advice should be sought from a medical professional.