Take a moment and think carefully about what you think is the biggest danger we as a species will face in the near future.
What did you come up with?
- Nuclear holocaust?
- Killer asteroid?
- Societal collapse?
All of those things could well lead to our demise, but the biggest threat we face at this point is the failure of antibiotics to kill infections.
Infection. Simple, invisible until it’s too late, infection.
Standing outside in Praed St Paddington, London, the view looks pretty normal. St Marys Hospital is opposite the hotel and a pub, a road sign and a small blue plaque on one of its buttressed walls. People walk past, many not realizing that the second floor window above the plaque and road sign is the room where Alexander Fleming discovered the mold that lead to the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928.
Some estimates say that penicillin has saved more than a billion lives since it became commercially available in 1943. Those billion lives don’t include other antibiotics that have been developed since.
The discovery and development of antibiotics has been hailed as one of the greatest, most transformational, medical advances of all time.
Antibiotic resistance has rendered many antibiotics useless, and the list is growing every month. We really are headed towards a time when very simple infections are once again feared killers.
Children will die of tonsillitis, any type of orthopaedic surgery will become a lottery as infection in the bone is most unlikely to be survivable without antibiotics. Most forms of chemotherapy will be useless as antibiotic therapy is run alongside the treatment. Organ transplant patients are plagued by infections, none of which would be treatable. People would once again become insane as a side effect of syphilis, and other sexual transmitted diseases would run rampant through society.
The governments of the world have to take part of the responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in. Yes doctors have over-prescribed antibiotics, and yes patients have demanded them for every minor ailment, but adding antibiotics to animal feed has caused massive, passive over-exposure.
A report from Princeton University states that 80% of the antibiotics produced in the United States are given to animals. A large amount of these antibiotics are excreted which allows it to move into the soil and groundwater supplies.
Antibiotics are now detectable in wild fish and are routinely put into the food fed to farmed fish.
Warnings were issued about this more than two decades ago but still governments allow the practice to continue.
The FDA issued industry guidance regarding antibiotic resistance markers in genetically modified food crops in 1998. The document states:
In either case, crop developers should evaluate the safety of use of antibiotic resistance marker genes present in transgenic crops.
An evaluation of the safety of use of an antibiotic resistance marker, if it is expressed, should include an assessment of the safety of the protein or enzyme encoded by the gene, if present in food. Regardless of whether it is expressed, crop developers should evaluate the potential for therapy with antibiotics to be compromised through transfer of the gene from plants to microorganisms in the gut of man or animal, or in the environment.
We are facing a crisis, a huge crisis as the development of new antibiotics takes years, and they are years we don’t have. The search for naturally occurring antibiotics is on. One of the most promising saviours lies in the back of most cupboards, only coming out to perk up an apple pie. Cinnamon.
Studies into the antibiotic properties of cinnamon have been underway for years.
Lead researcher Erdogan Ceylan, M.S., reported that in apple juice samples inoculated with about one million E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, about one teaspoon (0.3 percent) of cinnamon killed 99.5 percent of the bacteria in three days at room temperature (25 C). When the same amount of cinnamon was combined with either 0.1 percent sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate, preservatives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the E. coli were knocked out to an undetectable level. The number of bacteria added to the test samples was 100 times the number typically found in contaminated food. (source)
Other natural substances are being vigorously studied. Garlic, colloidal silver and more recently probiotic treatment involving yogurt for gut infections such as Clostridium Difficile. Simple things that many people have, or can make at home.
It seems ironic that with all the advances mankind has made we find ourselves in a position where a single celled organism could quite literally be the death of us.
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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.