Antibiotics have been practically miraculous. Used well, they save lives. But used too often, and there can be serious repercussions.
And we use them far too often.
The latest evidence of this is a study on children, which found that kids who get antibiotics to treat ear infections are more likely to have ear infections in the future as well.
The study, published in the British medical journal BMJ, followed 168 kids over three and a half years. The researchers found that the children who were given antibiotics for their ear infections were 20 percent more likely to have recurrences than the kids who were given a placebo.
This isn’t just about ear infections — that’s only one piece of the bigger picture. A study in 2005 looked at sore throats. That study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that half the kids who were taken to the doctor with a sore throat ended up on antibiotics.
But guess what? Antibiotics do nothing for most sore throats. The only common cause of a sore throat that requires antibiotics is group A beta-hemolytic streptococci, and it appears in far less than half of the sore throat cases. In fact, this form of "strep" (as it’s commonly known) is only responsible for between 15 percent and 36 percent of all sore throat cases.
So once again, huge numbers of children end up on antibiotics they don’t need. Over the generations, this has had a disastrous effect on children’s health. And if we keep going down this road, it will only get worse.
Some doctors blame the parents. They say they’re pressured into writing prescriptions for antibiotics, even for conditions where they don’t help. A study published in Pediatrics a decade ago found that a third of all doctors give in to that pressure.
Unfortunately, some doctors prescribe powerful, unneeded meds simply because a patient or a parent demands it. Big Pharma loves this.
We can see where this is going already, as bacteria that once succumbed to antibiotics develop resistance, leading to stronger and more powerful bacteria that can make people even sicker and with fewer treatment options.
Now, some researchers are working to develop viruses that will attack bacteria that antibiotics can’t handle. One in particular is being tested on a common bacteria that causes ear infections — one that is becoming resistant to antibiotics, according to a study that’s been accepted for publication in Clinical Otolaryngology.
So eventually, we could find ourselves deep inside an endless cycle of bacteria, meds, viruses to attack the bacteria created by the overuse of the meds, and so on.
It’s a frightening thought.
Dr. William B. Ferril
Dr. William B. Ferril's medical practice in Whitefish, Montana has become a beacon of hope for people throughout the country seeking relief from some of medicine’s most heartbreaking diseases. He also spent a decade practicing medicine on the Flathead Indian reservation in Western Montana.
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