FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Deep Harm of Antibiotics

by

Resistance to antibiotics is a growing phenomenon and has become one of the world’s most serious public health concerns. Antibiotic resistance is a form of drug resistance where some bacteria are able to survive the administration of one or more antibiotics. This phenomenon is a consequence of misuse and overuse of antibiotics in medicine and in livestock feed. As a result of this, there is a growing presence of superbugs, as are called microorganisms -mostly bacteria- that carry several antibiotic-resistance genes.

The seriousness of the problem is underscored by the World Health Organization (WHO), which in a recent report has called this phenomenon a ‘global threat.’ The WHO report follows a 2013 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report which showed that two million people in the U.S. are infected annually with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die each year from them. Last year, Dr. Sally Davies had called the problem a “ticking time bomb” and said that it probably will become as important in the magnitude of its effects as climate change.

As a result of antibiotic resistance and the increasing number of superbugs, common infections that could be treated without major problems have become untreatable. In 2012, the WHO reported 450,000 cases of tuberculosis in 92 countries where multiple drugs used to treat them were found ineffective.

A similar situation may happen with gonorrhea, with the serious public health consequences it implies. Sexually transmitted gonorrhea is now increasing worldwide, and so is its resistance to antibiotic treatment.

“Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these public health goods, and the implications will be devastating,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s assistant director general for health security.

The new WHO report has gathered information on antibiotic resistance from 114 countries. The problem is particularly serious because no new antibiotics are being developed. As Dr. Danilo Lo Fo Wong, senior adviser on antimicrobial resistance to WHO Europe has indicated, “New antibiotics coming into the market are not really new. They are variations of those we already have.” The last completely new class of antibacterial drugs was developed 27 years ago, according to the report.

Many bacteria acquire the ability to destroy antibiotics to protect themselves. They develop a gene for antibiotic resistance to one or more antibiotics by developing a mutation that results in the production of enzymes that inactivate the antibiotics. And the bacteria accumulate resistance by developing new genes. In a strange twist of fate, genetics can work against us. Thus, any time a person uses an antibiotic without proper indication or for a shorter time than needed, it is promoting the development of antibiotic resistance.

Sir Alexander Flemming, who discovered penicillin, warned about this danger in his 1945 Nobel lecture when he said, “The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then 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.”

In addition, the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock feed to help them grow better and put on more weight increases the magnitude of the problem. When livestock excrete the antibiotics they are largely not broken down. They then enter the environment through the ground and water and, when newly ingested by humans they retain the capacity to promote antibiotic resistance. Thus, the resistant bacteria in animals due to their exposure to antibiotics in their feed can be transmitted to humans via three pathways: consumption of animal products, close contact with animals, and through the environment.

In 2001, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that more than 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to animals in their food. Despite WHO’s warning that the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry should be prohibited, they continue to be used without restraint.

With fewer drug options, the most negatively affected are the poor and those that lack health insurance, circumstances that limit the search for the most effective treatment. The WHO, the medical charity organization Médecins Sans Frontières, and experts worldwide have stated that a global plan for the rational use of affordable antibiotics is urgently needed. To ignore their advice is to sow the seeds of our own destruction.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. 

 

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
Shamus Cooke
Can the Establishment Fix Its Bernie Sanders Problem?
John Hazard
The Pope in Mexico: More Harm Than Good?
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau & the Saudi Arms Deal
Zarefah Baroud
The Ever-Dangerous Mantra “Drill, Baby Drill”
Anthony DiMaggio
Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis
Colin Todhunter
Indian Food and Agriculture Under Attack
Binoy Kampmark
Warring Against Sanders: Totalitarian Thinking, Feminism and the Clintons
Robert Koehler
Presidential Politics and the American Soul
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: The Banality of Evil on Steroids
Cesar Chelala
In Microcephaly in Children Caused by the Zika Virus or by Pesticides?
February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail