Antimicrobial Resistance in the News

antibiotics-for-humans-and-food-animalsAs many of you know, we are currently working on a project to create an educational film that will empower individuals and families to safely treat infections at home, without the use of antibiotics. Members of the [Grow] Network are coming together to fund the Indiegogo campaign we created to produce this film. This is a classic example of strength in numbers, and it shows the potential a community like ours has for creating change. You can see the campaign here: Treating Infections Without Antibiotics – Indiegogo.

As we have been working on this project, we have received a huge outpouring of support. We have received messages of encouragement from concerned citizens around the globe – including scientists, medical doctors, and people who have fought off antibiotic-resistant infections in their own bodies.

I went to bed last night feeling very positive about the support that we have received. A huge outpouring of support and encouragement, and a successful campaign to empower people to take an active stance against this problem in their own homes… What could be better? Right?

Haha, that was last night – when I went to bed.

Eight hours later, I woke to some of the biggest headlines I can remember about the antibiotic-resistant threat. I was drinking my coffee and glancing through the headlines…

Here’s the first thing I noticed:

Misunderstanding of antibiotics fuels superbug threat, WHO says
This article from Reuters begins with this quote: “The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis,” from WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. She was speaking with reporters about a report the WHO just released that exposes a lack of understanding and awareness about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance around the globe. She went on to say that the problem is “reaching dangerously high levels” in all parts of the world and could lead to “the end of modern medicine as we know it.”

Talk about a timely news story… We’ve pointed to WHO claims about antibiotic resistance before, like in this post – 23,000 People Will Die This Year… And Never See Their Killer Coming.

But there’s more.

The next headline I noticed was this one:

Health Experts Are Explaining Drug-Resistant Bacteria Poorly
This article from The Atlantic leads in with the quote: “health experts invoke an ‘apocalyptic’ threat that’s bigger than terrorism or climate change.” They go on to detail an entirely different study, funded by London’s The Wellcome Trust, that focuses on the lack of understanding and awareness about antibiotics in the U.K. The author asserts that “the fault, arguably, is on us – science journalists, scientists, doctors, communicators, and everyone who’s beating the drum about this impending threat.”

Well then – that’s two big headlines about antimicrobial resistance. A good day for awareness about the problem, to be sure…. But still no real action taken as a result.

Wait, there’s more… Next, I saw this headline:

Pediatricians want farmers to use fewer antibiotics
This one is on CNN. In an open letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the lead author Dr. Jerome Paulson says, “We know our side is not perfect, physicians do bear some responsibility for this and there has not always been a prudent use in our practice, we are doing something on our side to help fix this.”

The article goes on to point out that in 2012, 80% (or 32.2 million pounds) of antibiotics used in the US were used on animals. And of those, 60% were the same drugs that are used to fight infections in humans. Dr. Paulson says, “We also want to make sure the government agencies and agribusiness will look at this serious issue as well and get these unnecessary antimicrobials out of the production stream.” Dr. Paulson encourages parents to buy meat with a “no antibiotics added” label, noting that he sees antibiotic-free meat much more available in the marketplace.

So, still no real action – but that’s at least a call for some action.

And those articles are just the tip of the iceberg – the internet is bustling with activity and information today about the antimicrobial-resistant threat to people all over, as the World Health Organization kicks off its first ever World Antibiotic Awareness Week. I see that similar stories are running on Fox News, Time, and many industry-specific publications in the medical and agricultural communities.

If you’ve been following along here on our growyourowngroceries.org, this problem probably isn’t news to you. We’ve had an ongoing dialog about microbial resistance for a while now, and it’s obvious that when the WHO and The Wellcome Trust did their surveys – they didn’t call up many members of the [Grow] Network. Remember this article – Microbes 2.0 – A Tiny Manifesto?

While the national news media does appear to be getting on board to help raise awareness, I’m not sure that we can count on them to create real change.

I hope I’m wrong about that.

But, I suspect the initial response will be more like finger-pointing and name-calling, as the doctors blame the farmers, the farmers blame the pharmaceuticals, and everyone blames the government.

There’s just too much money on the table to expect wholesale change to take place without some strong outside influences.

So, as always, the responsibility for creating real change will likely fall on us – you and I. What can we do?

In a nutshell – we can take the money away. Here’s how:

Vote with Your Dollars
When you buy meat, spend that extra few dollars to buy meat that has not been treated with antibiotics. Let the massive food industries know that you are aware of the problem, and you expect them to take action if they want your money.

See this report card about how several national fast food chains stack up regarding their policies on the use of antibiotics in their meat supply – (Infographic) Is Your Lunch Full of Antibiotics? A Fast Food Report Card. If a company is not transparent and responsible about their antibiotic policies – simply don’t give them any of your hard-earned money.

When possible, buy your meat from a local farmer who will stand in front of you and answer your questions about how antibiotics were used in raising that meat. There’s more information available about this in the book Holy Cows and Hog Heaven by Joel Salatin, and in this article – 4 Uncommon-Sense Guidelines for Food Safety and Nutrition.

Opt Out
Doctor and PatientWhen you go to your doctor’s office, push back when they prescribe antibiotics for minor infections that could be treated without the drugs. Every time they suggest an antibiotic, ask them what alternatives you have, and what are the likely outcomes if you don’t take the prescription. Do rely on your healthcare providers for their expert guidance, but don’t just fall in line with the course of treatment that maximizes their income stream. Insist that they give you thorough information and that they keep themselves well-informed.

If you’re considering any elective surgical procedures – get information from the hospital about antimicrobial-resistant infections other patients have experienced at that facility and for the procedure in question. If resistant infections are common at the facility, or for the specific procedure – opt out.

Learn about Your Alternatives
Learn about how to protect yourself and your family. For some infections, there are perfectly good alternatives to the industrially produced chemical antibiotics. We are not as dependent on these drugs as we are led to believe. Learn about your alternatives.

We are producing an educational video about herbal treatments – and as I write this there are 8 days left to claim a discounted copy of that video by taking part in our Indiegogo fund-raising campaign here – Indiegogo – Treating Infections Without Antibiotics.

Colloidal silver is another alternative. We’ve published some information about colloidal silver, mostly regarding its use in the yard and garden (Colloidal Silver Kills Plant Fungus, Produces Larger and Healthier Crops and A Recipe for Serious Sunburn Relief – And It’s Great for Bug Bites Too). But there’s a lot of good information available about colloidal silver and its use as an antimicrobial treatment for infections in humans too.

Lead by Example
If you are raising food animals, do it without optional antibiotics. This might go without saying for this audience. Most [Grow] Network members who are far enough along on their journeys to be raising food animals already know about the problem, and many of you are activists for change when it comes to antibiotics in the food supply. But if your veterinarian isn’t proactive about this – ask them to read about the issue and become informed. Avoid antibiotics when you can.

Fan the Flames
Help spread the word about this issue. When you see good information about the problem, forward that information to your friends and family – and through your social networks. There is strength in numbers. If one of us tells our doctor and grocer that we don’t want optional antibiotics, we are a nuisance. If 1 million of us tell our doctors and grocers that we don’t want optional antibiotics, we are a small concern. If 100 million of us do this, we are an immediate threat to the system. Spread the word and help us reach critical mass.


Sources:

• Reuters – Misunderstanding of antibiotics fuels superbug threat, WHO says
The AtlanticHealth Experts Are Explaining Drug-Resistant Bacteria Poorly
• CNN – Pediatricians want farmers to use fewer antibiotics

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Michael Ford


Contributor

Michael has been the resident editor at The [Grow] Network since January 2015. Michael grew up in St. Louis, where he became a lover of nature - hiking and fishing his way through the Ozark hills in Missouri. He attended Baylor University in Waco, TX, and he currently lives in Austin. Michael has background experience in small-scale farming, commercial growing, vegetable gardening, landscaping, marketing, and software development. He received his Permaculture Design Certification from the Austin Permaculture Guild in 2013.


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2 Comments
  • Yvonne Hansen

    Marjory and Michael, Always excellent information. About antibiotics, let me add this: In 1964 the Stauffer Chemical Co. applied for a patent on glyphosate as an ANTIBIOTIC! The patent office provided it w/ #3,160,632. Later Montsano took over either the Staffer Co. and/or the patent in about 2010. Montsano marketed Roundup where the active ingredient is glyphosate as an herbicide. Antibiotic is an agent that kills biological forms, right? An herbicide kills plant life, right? So what is the difference? Not much. Along the way, harvesters of grain products spray Roundup on crops at harvest to hasten drying of the grain (or bean, as in soy) so chaffing and milling can be convenient. This latter information comes to me from Solari, the newsetter of Catherine Austin Fitts, a permaculture ‘farmer’ in Tennessee as well as an assistant HUD sectary under Bush 41. So the human intake of antibiotics in increased via the glyphosate in harvested grains as well as antibiotics being fed to farm animals, especially in CAFOs. Stay in touch. I learn so much w/ your inputs. TY

  • E.Suzanne Gerard

    You should also ask your doctor to order a culture and sensitivity which is a test that takes a while as a culture is made of the microbe causing your problem and that culture is then grown on agar samples treated with various antibiotics to be sure you are given the most effective treatment. Because a couple of weeks can be involved mot physicians don’t want to do this and it cannot be do effectively after any antibiotic is begun so after the sample to culture is taken agree to begin any antibiotic of his/her choice and if you still have a problem when the results are returned, switch to the drug deemed most effective.

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