The frivolous use of antibiotics, not just in medicine but also in food production, is the root cause of skyrocketing antibiotic resistance.
Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control1 (ECDC) shows a significant rise of resistance to multiple antibiotics in Klebsiella pneumoniae and E. coli in just the last four years alone, affecting more than one-third of the EU, and the primary cause for this man-made epidemic is the widespread misuse of antibiotics.
Between the years of 1993 and 2005, the number of Americans hospitalized due to the antibiotic-resistant “superbug” MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) skyrocketed from about 2,000 to 370,000.
Currently, MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant infections kill about 60,000 Americans annually, and account for billions of dollars in health care costs.2 Antibiotic-resistant disease is not the only danger associated with the misuse of these drugs. Excessive exposure to antibiotics also takes a heavy toll on your gastrointestinal health, which can predispose you to virtually any disease.
Abnormal gut flora may actually be a major contributing factor to the rise in a wide variety of childhood diseases and ailments, from bowel disorders and allergies to autism.
Agricultural uses of antibiotics account for about 80 percent of all antibiotic use in the US, so it's a MAJOR source of human antibiotic consumption. Animals are often fed antibiotics at low doses for disease prevention and growth promotion, and those antibiotics are transferred to you via meat, and even via the manure used as crop fertilizer.
Protecting your gut health and reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are significant reasons for making sure you're only eating grass-fed, organically-raised meats and animal products.
Gut Viruses Confer Antibiotic-Resistance to Bacteria, New Research ShowsWhen used properly, in the correct contexts and with responsibility, antibiotics can and do save lives that are threatened by bacterial infections. But there is one important variable that wasn't considered when the widespread use of these "miracle medicines" began, and that is that bacteria are highly adaptable.
They are clearly capable of outsmarting antibiotics, and they are doing so with a vengeance. According to the CDC's National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System:
"Antibiotics kill or inhibit the growth of susceptible bacteria. Sometimes one of the bacteria survives because it has the ability to neutralize or evade the effect of the antibiotic; that one bacteria can then multiply and replace all the bacteria that were killed off.
Exposure to antibiotics therefore provides selective pressure, which makes the surviving bacteria more likely to be resistant. In addition, bacteria that were at one time susceptible to an antibiotic can acquire resistance through mutation of their genetic material or by acquiring pieces of DNA that code for the resistance properties from other bacteria.
The DNA that codes for resistance can be grouped in a single easily transferable package. This means that bacteria can become resistant to many antimicrobial agents because of the transfer of one piece of DNA."
Interestingly, these bacteria have previously unknown allies that supply them with the antibiotic-resistant genes necessary for their survival. Researchers at the Wyss Institute have discovered that gut viruses known as bacteriophages, a.k.a. “phages” are actually instrumental in conferring antibacterial resistance to bacteria. Most importantly:
“[Phage] deliver genes that help the bacteria to survive not just the antibiotic they've been exposed to, but other types of antibiotics as well...
That suggests that phages in the gut may be partly responsible for the emergence of dangerous superbugs that withstand multiple antibiotics, and that drug targeting of phages could offer a potential new path to mitigate development of antibiotic resistance,” the Institute’s press release states.