Despite one of the CDC’s own—associate director Dr. Arjun Srinivasan—declaring “the end of antibiotics” three years ago1 the government has continued to drag its toes when it comes to taking any firm action on the rising threat of antibiotic resistance.
In fact, the CDC has continued to tone down the threat even as the White House has scrambled to divert billions to combat so-called “emerging threats” that actually pale in comparison to the devastation that antibiotic resistant superbugs could unleash on the public.
Why? Could it be because the drug industry benefits from continued use of antibiotic scaremongering? What can be said for sure is that these misplaced priorities do not serve the public’s best interest.
Risk from gene that lends antibiotic resistance called “minimal” by CDC
Dr. Beth Bell, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, insists that we shouldn’t be too worried about the emergence of E.coli carrying the drug resistant mcr-1 gene.
“The risk to the public at this point is pretty much minimal,” Bell told The Washington Post,2 noting the “best” way to protect yourself against drug-resistant bacteria is to thoroughly cook your food and be diligent about washing your hands.
Not what you would call a satisfactory long-term solution in the face of this very real and growing threat. For instance let’s hold fish and livestock food producers accountable. They MUST take this threat seriously and quit using antibiotics in food production. Or be forced to if necessary.
We need to demand transparency so we can start to protect ourselves. Other countries are making moves in that direction, and we need to also. Take Chile for example. An appeals court there recently ordered government fisheries to disclose their use of antibiotics in salmon production.3
The claim was filed by the environmental group Oceana after 37 salmon producers refused to reveal the amount of antibiotics used in 2014, on the grounds that doing so might put them at a competitive and commercial disadvantage.
Antibiotic resistant Mcr-1 gene poses a serious threat to U.S.
Here’s why E.coli carrying the mcr-1 gene is anything but a “minimal threat,” as Dr. Bell called it. The mutant gene was discovered in pigs and people in China just last year.4,5,6 It’s quickly lends resistance to the antibiotic colistin—a drug that’s used as a last resort when all other antibiotics have already failed.
The shareable DNA also contains seven other genes that confer resistance against other antibiotics. Moreover, the rate of DNA transfer between different types of bacteria is also exceptionally high with mcr-1, making it a truly superb threat.
According to the researchers, these facts “suggest the progression from extensive drug resistance to pan drug resistance7 is inevitable,” and that it’s extremely likely the mcr-1 gene will spread to bacteria worldwide.8
In other words, according to researchers, we’re now talking about bacteria that become resistant to ALL treatment.
The team, which described their findings9 as “alarming,” called for “urgent restrictions” on the use of polymyxins, including colistin, which is widely used in livestock farming despite being a drug of last resort against a host of bacterial infections common in humans.
It didn’t take long — less than one year — and this strain that everyone fears has now been identified in a U.S. slaughterhouse sample (pork) and an American patient admitted with an E.coli infection.10,11,12 As noted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC):13
“Both discoveries underscore why curbing antibiotic use in livestock production is critical to keeping our life-saving antibiotics, like colistin, working when we need them.”
Our food supply may be able to spread superbugs
It’s still unclear how the patient contracted the superbug, but previous cases have been linked to eating contaminated meat imported from affected countries, especially China, but also Germany.
The gene was also detected in the blood of a Danish patient in late 2015, and mcr-1 was also found in five poultry samples purchased in Denmark that were imported from Germany between 2012 and 2014.14
Country-of-origin labels on imported meats could go a long way toward helping people avoid these kinds of risks, but the World Trade Organization (WTO) put the kibosh on such labeling in 2014, when it ruled the United States’ country-of-origin labels — implemented in 2013 — “unfairly discriminate” against meat imports.15
So now we have this curious situation where you can pick up a kid’s toy and find a “Made in China” or “Made in the U.S.A.” sticker but you are not allowed to know where your meat was raised because that would be “discriminatory.”
Antibiotic resistance poses a threat to our food crops too
For over a decade we’ve also known antibiotic-resistant bacteria are present in agricultural soils, typically deposited there via contaminated manure and/or so-called biosolids (toxic sewage waste),16 and this is yet another route into the food system.
(Sadly, organic gardeners may also inadvertently contaminate their home garden by applying potting soil with biosolids.)
Researchers at the University of Southampton are trying to understand the situation better and will be studying “how antimicrobial resistance is introduced into natural soil bacteria, for example from manures applied by farmers or exposure to domesticated or wild animal and bird fecal droppings, and how this transfer takes place in different soil types.”17
A 2015 report from China also highlights the “breathtaking extent” of China’s soil pollution crisis.18 The report, written by Li Xianfeng, won the 2016 China Environmental Press Awards “Most Influential Report” prize.
In it, he writes about how, over the course of a decade, a pig farmer in the village of Jingjiang buried 14,000 tons of chemical waste from a fertilizer manufacturer beneath his farm, which is situated right near a river.
According to the article, the villagers aren’t too concerned about the presence of a secret toxic waste dump in their midst because “their water comes from a treated supply, and while many have fields to the south of the pig farm, the villagers know not to eat anything grown there — those crops get sold onwards.”
And that’s part of the problem when you have no idea where your food comes from. Farmers may raise their crops and livestock under all sorts of horrid and toxic conditions and then simply sell the food they’d never consider eating themselves to others.
By 2050 10 million a year could be lost to antibiotic resistance
According to the largest, most thorough review of the drug resistance problem to date, by 2050 antibiotic-resistant disease will claim the lives of 10 million people around the world each year. As noted by The Atlantic:19
“The report’s language is sober but its numbers are apocalyptic. If antibiotics continue to lose their sting, resistant infections will sap $100 trillion from the world economy between now and 2050, equivalent to $10,000 for every person alive today … [R]oughly one [person will die] every three seconds, and more than currently die from cancer.
These are conservative estimates: they don’t account for procedures that are only safe or possible because of antibiotics, like hip and joint replacements, gut surgeries, C-sections, cancer chemotherapy, and organ transplants.
And yet, resistance is not futile. O’Neill’s report includes 10 steps to avert the crisis … seven of his recommendations focus on reducing the wanton and wasteful use of our existing arsenal. It’s inevitable that microbes will evolve resistance, but we can delay that process by using drugs more sparingly.”
Among those 10 action steps are:
1. Improve sanitation:
Developed countries need to focus on reducing hospital-acquired infections, while poor nations need to improve general living conditions with access to clean water and better sanitation and waste management. According to the report, economic development is critical, as improved sanitation alone could eliminate the need for 300 million courses of antibiotics given to treat diarrhea each year.
2. Implement a global surveillance network:
To better understand how and where antibiotics are being used, and how resistant microbes are spreading and affecting various drugs we need to do a far better job of tracking them and their effects.
3. Eliminate unnecessary use of antibiotics in farming:
In large commercial farming situations drugs are used not just to treat disease, but also to promote growth and compensate for poor farming practices. The report also calls for a ban on agricultural use of antibiotics needed as a last-line defense in human medicine.
To encourage this process, the report suggests meats should be clearly labeled to help consumers make informed choices about whether they want to buy meats raised with antibiotics.
4. Eliminate unnecessary use of antibiotics in human medicine:
In the U.S. only about one-quarter of all prescriptions for antibiotics are actually medically necessary and/or appropriate. The vast majority of people who get them have viral infections that do not respond to antibiotics. Part of the plan would be to improve diagnostic tests to identify bacterial infections and the most appropriate antibiotics to treat them.
Keep colloidal silver in your own medicine cabinet
Interestingly, an ancient treatment popularized by alternative medicine may be part of the drug resistance solution. The antimicrobial properties of silver have been known since 400 B.C., and silver was commonly used as an antimicrobial agent in wound management until the early 20th century. Its usage only diminished once antibiotics were introduced in the 1940s.
Modern science has not only confirmed silver’s antimicrobial effects,20,21,22,23,24 researchers have also discovered it makes antibiotic drugs 1,000 times more effective and may even allow an antibiotic to successfully combat otherwise antibiotic-resistant bacteria.25,26
When a small amount of silver was added to an antibiotic the powerful pair was able to eradicate a tough urinary tract infection caused by tetracycline-resistant E. coli. Silver also helped save the lives of 90 percent of mice suffering with a life-threatening abdominal inflammation by adding it to the antibiotic vancomycin. In the group receiving vanomycin alone just 10 percent survived.
Tests such as these reveal that silver destabilizes the structure of bacterial cell membranes, making it more porous, which allows the silver (and the antibiotic if used in combination) to enter the bacterial cell and kill it. In another recent trial, a single oral dose of silver nanoparticles given to infant mice colonized with Vibrio cholerae (which causes cholera) reduced bacterial colonization 75-fold.27
Silver-containing Hydrofiber dressing has also been shown to offer effective protection against proliferation of a broad range of aerobic, anaerobic and antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in wounds.28 Silver nanoparticles incorporated into a thermosensitive gel has also been tested and found to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus.29
A 2010 study found colloidal silver effectively killed drug resistant staph, E.coli, Salmonella, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa,30 the latter of which typically occurs in hospitals and in people with weakened immune systems.31 Researchers have even found that using silver nanoparticles in food packaging can help prevent proliferation of foodborne pathogens such as listeria.32,33
Considering the evidence, it seems reasonable to conclude that keeping a bottle of high-quality silver in your medicine cabinet to use any time you get a cut, scrape or wound would be a good idea. Because a large number of the antibiotic resistant infections that end up taking a heavy toll—sometimes in lost limbs or even lost lives—started out as a simple cut or scrape.
Be careful about colloidal silver quality
Fear of colloidal silver toxicity is a valid concern because of the poor practices of some less than scrupulous manufacturers in the past selling products marked as colloidal silver which aren’t true colloidal silver. However, a 2013 study34 found that the dose of silver required to kill bacteria is far smaller than the dose needed to harm either mice or cultured human cells, suggesting oral silver should be quite safe, provided you’re using a quality product from an upstanding manufacturer you trust.
According to a Commercial Product Report35 by Silver-Colloids.com, a site that provides detailed laboratory analyses of colloidal silver products, there are three distinctly different types of silver products on the market that are all labeled and sold as “colloidal” silver:
- True colloidal silver
- Ionic silver
- Silver protein: due to the high concentration of large silver particles, silver protein products are known to cause argyria, which turns your skin a blue-gray color. Silver protein should NOT be used
True colloidal silver & ionic silver are the most recommended. In the study cited above, they used ionic silver (Ag) in a silver nitrate salt (AgNO3), which, again, was found to be non-toxic in animals and human cell cultures. Substantial antimicrobial activity was found at 30 microns (μM) against E. coli.
1 UPI October 27, 2013
2, 10 Washington Post May 31, 2016
3 Reuters June 1, 2016
4, 8 Scientific American November 19, 2015
5 Time November 19, 2015
6 Reuters November 18, 2015
7 Clin Microbiol Infect 2012; 18: 268–281 (PDF)
9 Lancet Infectious Diseases November 18, 2015 [Epub ahead of print]
11 Otago Daily Times May 31, 2016
12 Bucks County Courier Times May 31, 2016
13 NRDC May 27, 2016
14 Technical University of Denmark December 3, 2015
15 Food Safety News October 21, 2014
16 Environment International 2003 Jan;28(7):587-95
17 Science Daily May 23, 2016
18 China Dialogue January 6, 2016
19 The Atlantic May 19, 2016
20 Scientific Reports 2014: 4; 7161
21 Appl. Environ. Microbiol. April 2008: 74(7); 2171-2178
22 Acta Biomaterialia May 2008: 4(3); 707-716
23 Microbe Wiki, Silver
24 Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2007: 59(4); 587-590
25, 34 Science Translational Medicine 19 June 2013: 5(190); 190ra81
26 Scientific American June 20, 2013
27 International Journal of Medical Microbiology January 2015: 305(1); 85-95
28 Wound Repair and Regeneration 2004 May-Jun;12(3):288-94
29 International Journal of Nanomedicine. 2011; 6: 2873–2877
30 International Journal of Microbiological Research 2010: 1(1); 33-36 (PDF)
31 CDC.gov, Pseudomonas Aregnosa
32 Bioinorganic Chemistry and Applications 2014, Article ID 581890
33 Frontiers in Microbiology March 7, 2016
35 Silver-colloids.com Commercial Product Report
New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mercola graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1982. And while osteopaths or D.O.s are licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery just like medical doctors (M.D.s), they bring something extra to the practice of medicine.
Osteopathic physicians practice a "whole person" approach to medicine, treating the entire person — rather than just the symptoms. Focusing on preventive health care, D.O.s help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it too.
Dr. Mercola is passionate about natural medicine and strongly believes that the current medical system is largely manipulated and controlled by large corporations whose primary focus is profit. His website, Mercola.com, which started as a small hobby interest in 1997, has now grown to today’s number one natural health website educating and empowering millions to take back the control over their own health.
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