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Antibiotic Resistance is now a global threat

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S. 2 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur each year – resistance to antibiotics or antifungal medicines – resulting in 23,000 deaths.  Within 30 years, that number is expected to rise to 10 million deaths.

Photo credit – Iqbal Osman via Flickr

Resistance is the result of several factors:

  • The overuse of antibiotics — up to 50% of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary.
  • The drug kills off most of the bacterial infection but may leave individual bacterial cells that are immune. These multiply because they are no longer competing for food, space and water with their neighbors.
  • The drug also kills off our “good” bacteria that inhabit our stomach, mouth, throat and skin, opening the way for the bad bacteria to more easily become established.
  • The antibiotic actually weakens the immune system, making it more susceptible for infection by those bacteria that are resistant to multiply, free from our immune system’s attack.
  • Sometimes the infection is viral, which will not respond to an antibiotic. Giving an antibiotic in these cases may cause the death of the “good” bacteria and allow for a secondary bacterial infection to develop  … which could be composed of antibiotic resistant strains. Perhaps this was the result of a doctor’s misdiagnosis or just patient pressure because they expect to walk out of the doctor’s office with some sort of prescription in their hands to take care of their infection, no matter what the infection really is

Things that you can do during this cold and flu season:

  • Do not self-prescribe antibiotics from meds left over from before. Get an actual bacterial or fungal diagnosis first, before using any antibiotic.
  • Don’t share your medications.
  • If it is really a cold or flu, you will have to suffer with it without meds, but you can use some possible symptom relievers: nasal sprays, throat sprays, ear drops.
  • Be careful eating meat where the animals have been treated with antibiotics.  These will have drug-resistant bacteria remaining in their meat.
  • Wash your hands frequently throughout the day. Much of the transmission of bacteria from person to person is by direct contact. Some is airborne.
  • The best defense is a healthy immune system — from eating the right foods (fruits and vegetables), no smoking, cutting back on alcohol use and reducing processed foods and carbs.
  • If possible, minimize your contact with potential carriers – avoid hospitals, crowds and movie theaters, and places where the air is recirculated (planes).

Or as an alternative, spend a couple of hours in an antibiotic-free zone looking at the fish and corals. In this photo below, these are soft corals off Ambergris Caye in Belize. This is an activity that is both soothing for the soul and if the water is clean … free of bacteria.

Caribbean soft corals


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