There have been several recent news stories involving antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.
A Battle Over Antibiotics In Organic Apple And Pear Farming
How To Track And Attack A Superbug
In March I heard this NPR interview discussing a press conference by Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in which he announced the need to "sound an alarm" on the advance of CRE, a highly drug-resistant bacteria. I learned in this interview that the antibiotics prescribed to treat many patients with superbugs have not been used for decades. That's because the antibiotics have such undesirable side effects as kidney failure. Facing death from an infection caused by a superbacteria, however, the patients are left with no other choice but to take a drug that may cause them serious harm.
Four Ways to Create Bacterial Super Bugs
In our quest for hyper-cleanliness, antibacterials are added to all kinds of personal products and cleaning products where they are completely unnecessary. Hot water and soap has been shown to be just as effective in killing germs as antibacterial soaps, for example. Select carefully and use very judiciously any product labeled as a disinfectant or an antibacterial.
During the NPR interview listed above, one listener emailed in: Does the use of antibacterial soap increase the likelihood that my body won't respond properly to standard antibiotics? Guest Carl Zimmer, a science writer and blogger, responded:
Well, by doing anything that exposes bacteria, even good bacteria, to antibiotics, you're creating the opportunity for the evolution of resistance. Any genes that provide resistance are going to become more common, and mutations to those genes are going to be favored by natural selection. And the real tricky thing about bacteria is that once they've got these highly evolved resistance genes to different drugs, they trade them. They swap them around. And actually you'll have some bacteria like the bacteria we're talking about today, which have accumulated lots and lots of genes for lots of different antibiotics.
2. Use consumer products containing antibacterial pesticides.
Microban is a broad range of antimicrobial technologies that are designed to protect products from microbes. Microban technologies do not protect the user of the product from disease causing microorganisms (if Microban International was making such claims, it would be subject to certain regulatory requirements and would have to have proof to support the claims).
3. Purchase conventional meat and animal products.
4. Ask your doctor for antibiotics for you or your child.
If you need antibiotics, your doctor will prescribe them. Even if your doctor suggests antibiotic use, ask if you can wait a few days to see if the problem resolves on its own, or consider getting a second opinion. For example, my doctor wanted to prescribe antibiotics for my child's ear infection. After consulting with a relative who is an ER pediatrician (and aware of the latest research on ear infections and antibiotics), I decided against it, at least for several more days. I did discuss that decision with my doctor, who did not oppose it. Neither my 2nd or 3rd child has ever taken antibiotics despite several ear infections (about 80 percent of all ear infections clear up on their own). I treat ear infections with pain killers, observe, and consult with my doctor. The AAP recently issued new guidelines for the treatment of ear infections. One change is that observation without antibiotics is given as an option for children over 6 months of age. I push back hard when any doctor suggests antibiotic use for me or my children. It's not that I don't believe in them, it's that I want them to work when they are really needed.
I have no doubt that we will one day reach the "post-antibiotic" world that so many public health experts are warning about. I just hope we can delay it long enough to come up with alternate means of dealing with bacterial infections before we get there.
- 5 Reasons to Choose Antibiotic-free Meat
- I Survived a Drug-Resistant Bacterial Infection
- Non-toxic Antibacterial Soap
- Eco-novice's Back-to-School Guide
- 6 Strategies for Choosing Non-toxic Personal Care Products
- Favorite Green Cleaning Products
- Avoiding Toxins in Baby Products
- How to Prevent Early Puberty in Girls
What are you doing to prevent the overuse and misuse of antibiotics?