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Date: 07 July 2014

Today's Topic: The end of the line for antibiotics

Triggers: BBC News Report

My Grump: Superbugs are a manmade thing, but greedy Big Pharma has made this a ticking timebomb.

When antibiotics no longer work, what will we do next? Think this is scare mongering? Think again, the last stand is already overrun.

Are you ready for a world without antibiotics? Growing numbers of infections are resistant to antibiotics but no new classes of anti-microbial drugs have come onto the market for more than 25 years. And, nobody is manufacturing any new strains. Why? Because there isn't enough money it in for shareholders.

Antibiotics are drugs you take infrequently, and usually only once, maybe twice. Drug companies rely on repeat prescriptions to make their money. They would rather have us all on statins, beta blockers and painkillers, insulin, omeprazole and all the other tablets that millions of people take daily, preferably for the rest of our lives. All this repeat business is guaranteed income.

So what's the story with antibiotics? They aren't quite that sexy, as the income derived from them is infrequent and short-lived. Consequently, no new ones in the pipeline for such a long time, and bacterial resistance to the old ones has gotten so bad that many new strains of infection are killing people in their thousands every year, who would otherwise have survived.

Things have gotten so bad that even when the next generation of antibiotics does reach the pharmacy shelf, they will be kept in reserve for the most severe cases. Years of research, millions of £££'s of investment, for something that will in all likelihood, remain on the shelf for as long as possible. Not an attractive proposition for a drugs company.
The MRSA superbug
So now the taxpayer is being asked to pick up the tab. Prime Minister David Cameron has called for global action to tackle the growing threat of resistance to antibiotics. To you and I that means, 'We'll pay'. Speaking to BBC health correspondent Fergus Walsh, Mr Cameron warned the world was "in danger of going back to the dark ages of medicine" if governments and drug firms failed to act.

Well, fail to act they have, and fail to act they will continue to do. We all seem to be under the misguided apprehension that big pharma is there to take care of us and protect us from harm. Uh, NO! They have led us up the garden path and held our hand, making us think through their very persuasive advertising that they are there to pick up the pieces and look after our interests. But that's just advertising. When was the last time you actually believed anything you saw in an advert? If it was recently, then I'm afraid you have been decieved big time.

Advertisers will say ANYTHING and show you ANYTHING to make you believe they have the solution to your problems. By the time anyone brings them to task over it, they've made their money and issue an appology or pay the paultry fine. Either way, they've conned the lot of us out of a lot of cash. Cynical? Yes, I believe I am. What with Tesco's prime cuts of horsemeat and banks telling us 'yes you really need this payment protection insurance', why should we believe anything they say ever again?

Sorry, I digress. So here we are with antibiotic-resistant superbugs for which there is no cure. The drugs we have relied on for 70 years to fight bacterial infections are becoming powerless. People are dying because of it.

Antibiotics have often been misused by doctors, patients and even people raising animals for meat. All that misuse over many years, breeds “superbugs” — dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can’t be easily controlled. What we now know is that our antibiotics were a precious resource that have been squandered in the name of profit. We ask our doctors for antibiotics to treat problems that the drugs simply don’t work against, such as virus induced colds or the flu. Farmers have fed antibiotics to livestock to speed production and growth, and to prevent disease in already healthy animals. And, many of us use antibacterial cleaning products in our homes that contain triclosan or other antibiotics, increasing the bacterial resistance over time until they are no longer effective.
Bacterial infections of the human body
Every time you use an antibiotic, it kills some, even most — but not all — of the bacteria in your body. Surviving bacteria can mutate, by modifying their genetic material so that they are no longer vulnerable to the drug. Antibiotics also kill off some of the “good” bacteria that normally live in your intestines, which may allow resistant bacteria to fill the void. Those bacteria can then multiply and transfer their drug resistance to other bacteria, magnifying the problem.

Superbugs are a growing worry. Antibiotic-resistant infections, such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), sicken or kill hundreds of people a year in the UK. At least 2 million Americans each year become infected and the superbug kills 23,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.

The fact is we are fighting a losing battle, one in which all of nature is stacked against us. We were set up to fail from the start because of the way nature always finds a way to survive regardless of the form it takes too survive (that's how cancer forms, hides and grows inside us). But with the right research we at least stood a good chance of keeping one step ahead.

So now the ball is firmly back in our court.
1. Take precautions to avoid infections.
2. Eat healthily to stay healthy and build a strong, efficient immune system.
3. If you must take antibiotics, take the whole course, and not stop when you feel better.
4. Get into the habit of washing hands regularly, especially before meals, after using the bathroom or working in the garden.
5. Use antibiotic creams and antibacterial hand soaps sparingly.
6. Wash all superficial wounds with soap and water (I use surgical spirit which is very effective) and keep cuts covered.
7. If you can trust the label, buy meat labelled 'no antibiotics' or 'organic'.
8. Get vaccinated. (diptheria, whooping cough, pheumonia, flu etc)
9. Don't demand antibiotics for viral infections. They won't do you any good.
10. If you go to hospital, get screened for MRSA before surgery (most do this now as routine).
11. Bleach is a wonderful cleaning agent for use around the home, especially communal areas.

Please share your thoughts below, thank you.

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