The Antibiotic Timebomb

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Top Tier Gear USA

Many sites yesterday carried a story from the BBC online news channel regarding antibiotics. The article relates the opinions of two respected scientists, as well as the World Health Organisation, that antibiotics will in the near future be incapable of clearing even common infections from our systems.

There is little point in repeating the article piecemeal, you can read the entire article at  The message the article contains is blunt, unequivocal and terrifying. Professor Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England said:

“It is clear we might never see global warming. The apocalyptic scenario is that when I need a new hip in 20 years I’ll die from a routine infection because we’ve run out of antibiotics.”

20 years. Two decades. Our lifetime.

The World Health Organisation has also issue a warning saying that the world is moving towards a ‘post antibiotic era’ unless urgent action is taken.

Hugh Pennington, professor of microbiology at The University of Aberdeen says that:

“Antibiotic resistance is a very, very serious problem. We have to be aware that we aren’t going to have any new wonder drugs coming along because there just aren’t any.”

Sobering words indeed. What then is the answer?

Alexander Fleming
who discovered penicillin

Developing new antibiotics that pathogens aren’t resistant to seems the obvious answer but drugs take years to develop and it can be a decade or longer before they are fully licensed for clinical use. There’s a district possibility that within a decade some infections are already on the incurable list once more. Big pharma are not developing new antibiotics at this time. As professor Davies points out.:

“There’s a broken market model for making new antibiotics so it’s an empty pipeline”

In short we have nothing in reserve, there is no medicinal cavalry to will ride in and rescue us at the last moment.

Hippocrates, credited with being the father of modern medicine, and the man who wrote the oath that doctors swear to adhere to, taught his students, and told his patients:

“Let your food be you medicine and your medicine be your food”

We hear so much about food these days, what you should eat, what you shouldn’t eat, what’s good and what’s bad. There’s so much information it’s often difficult to separate fact from fiction. I am not going to mention anything that hasn’t been scientifically tested. Thats not to say that anecdotal evidence is wrong, just that that substance hasn’t yet been tested. By sticking to items that HAVE been tested to see if they actually do have anti-microbial/health enhancing properties I can be sure I am not giving out misleading information.

All of the following foods have been researched by The National Institute of Health and the research notes are held in the US Library of Medicine. These articles can be found in the archives at once on the site you can search for the required research by using the box. The site has literally thousands of food related articles, quite a lot are of no practical use on a day to day basis, but many do have practical applications. The list below is in no way comprehensive.

  • Chitosan – potential protective use against obesity
  • Spices –  prevention and/or cure of several chronic diseases
  • Probiotics – prevention and/or cure of clostridium difficile and similar gut issues. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and relief from allergic skin reactions and psoriasis
  • Honey – anti-microbial useful for treating sore throats and small non-penetrating wounds
  • Onions– antibacterial properties
  • Garlic – anti-inflammatory/helps build healthy immune system
  • Vitamin C – helps promote a heathy immune system
  • Tomatoes – antioxidant /possible protection from some forms of cancer
  • Fermented soybeans – improve glucose homeostasis in diabetic rats studies ongoing regarding human diabetics

In addition to diet, general health should be maintained to the best of our ability. Skills or information on subjects such as cleaning out necrotic or infected wounds should be kept up to date. (see May archive Medically Speaking) Situations with a high infection risk should be avoided wherever possible and you should be prepared to use social distancing if widespread outbreaks of infection occur.(see July archive Medically Speaking) In a post-antibiotic world special care will have to be taken with waste disposal and personal hygiene to avoid contamination and disease. (see June archive Medically Speaking)

Hand hygiene will be even more important in a society where medicine can do nothing to stem the spread of contagious disease. All of us have a duty to ourselves, our families and society as a whole to get the hand washing message across. Simple hand washing can remove 95% of infective pathogens from the skin surface. Bad hand hygiene not only puts the individual at risk, but everyone who touches the item contaminated hands have touched. Television remote controls, door handles, elevator buttons, all can hold infective bacteria/viruses for up to 72 hours. Soft furnishings such as bed linen, towels and even the arm of the sofa can harbour live bugs for up to 24 hours.

The implications of not having antibiotics to deal with acute infective emergencies that cannot be handled without recourse to medical intervention is a terrifying thought. It’s a situation that will have serious consequences for millions of people. We all need to be prepared for what is, according to the experts, heading for us at great speed.

Take care


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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.

Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.

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