Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Antibiotics — savior and curse

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 8:09 AM

Man, I wish I had time to write a lengthy essay on the dichotomy antibiotics represent. To sum up: If it weren't for antibiotics, we wouldn't enjoy the standard of living we do today. But, as always, too much of a good thing can become a not-so-good thing.

Today, we overload our bodies with antibiotics even when we don't mean to. The medication is in our food, it's a cheap fix to numerous ails and it makes farmers more productive. But we've overdosed, and now antibiotics are creating problems — like Super Bugs.

Now there's news that we're literally making ourselves sick on antibiotics:

An antibiotic can temporarily upset your stomach, but now it turns out that repeatedly taking them might have lingering ill effects — by triggering changes in all those good germs that live in your gut.

Nobody yet knows if that leads to later health problems. But the finding is the latest in a flurry of research raising questions about how the customized bacterial zoo that thrives in our intestines forms — and whether the wrong type or amount plays a role in ailments from obesity to inflammatory bowel disease to asthma.

Don't be grossed out: This is a story in part about, well, poop.

Read the rest of this article, by Lauran Neergaard, here.

Then there's news that people are traveling to India for cheap(er) medical care and bringing Super Bugs home with them:

An infectious-disease nightmare is unfolding: A new gene that can turn many types of bacteria into superbugs resistant to nearly all antibiotics has sickened people in three states and is popping up all over the world, health officials reported Monday.

The U.S. cases and two others in Canada all involve people who had recently received medical care in India, where the problem is widespread. A British medical journal revealed the risk last month in an article describing dozens of cases in Britain in people who had gone to India for medical procedures.

How many deaths the gene may have caused is unknown; there is no central tracking of such cases. So far, the gene has mostly been found in bacteria that cause gut or urinary infections.

Scientists have long feared this — a very adaptable gene that hitches onto many types of common germs and confers broad drug resistance.

"It's a great concern," because drug resistance has been rising and few new antibiotics are in development, said Dr. M. Lindsay Grayson, director of infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne in Australia. "It's just a matter of time" until the gene spreads more widely person-to-person, he said.

Read the rest of this article, by Marilynn Marchione, here.

The only way to start combating this problem immediately, people, is to stop using antibacterial soaps and to stop eating foods known to contain antibiotics.

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