(Health Secrets Newsletter) After many years of being prescribed broad spectrum antibiotics, supposed wonder drugs that were seen to get rid of inconvenient ailments of any type, most of us are now aware that taking antibiotics for every cough and sniffle is not great for our health. However, the rate at which bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, and evolving into diseases that we won’t be able to cure is more alarming than many of us realize.
The latest antibiotic scare involves the resistance of the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the nasty bacterium that causes gonorrhea, to yet another type of antibiotic. This kind of bacteria has proven to be very adaptable and has already become resistant to penicillin, tetracycline, and ciprofloxacin. It is now thought to be becoming resistant to the current antibiotic used to treat it, cefixime.
The rate at which gonorrhea bacteria is developing resistance to cefixime antibiotics is a great cause for concern according to the Health Protection Agency in the UK. In 2005 no bacteria samples taken from gonorrhea patients showed reduced susceptibility to cefixime. By 2009 10% of bacteria samples showed reduced susceptibility and by 2010 this had grown to 20%. This has caused a switch to another type of antibiotic in the UK, but experts warn that it is only a matter of time before the bacteria becomes resistant to that too, and eventually gonorrhea will become incurable.
A gonorrhea expert from the UK’s Health Protection Agency, Professor Cathy Ison, states that: “Our lab tests have shown a dramatic reduction in the sensitivity of the drug we were using as the main treatment for gonorrhea. This presents the very real threat of untreatable gonorrhea in the future. We were so worried by the results we were seeing that we recommended that guidelines on the treatment of gonorrhea were revised in May this year, to recommend a more effective drug. But this won’t solve the problem, as history tells us that resistance to this therapy will develop too. In the absence of any new alternative treatments for when this happens, we will face a situation where gonorrhea cannot be cured.”
What Can We Do About Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotics are drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria, and in some illnesses such as meningitis they can be life saving. However, bacteria can adapt to become resistant to certain antibiotics, and the more often we use those antibiotics the more likely it is that the bacteria will become resistant.
Often antibiotics are prescribed for common ailments such as ear aches, coughs, colds, and sore throats which are usually caused by viruses, not by bacteria, and for which they are an unsuitable choice. Not only will antibiotics have no impact on viral infections, their overuse will increase the likelihood of resistance developing.
Antibiotics also kill off all the good bacteria we have in our intestines; the bacteria that help us with the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients and protect us from pathogens in our food, so using antibiotics when you don’t need to can have a negative impact on your health.
There are two rules we can all abide by when using antibiotics:
- Only use antibiotics when they are absolutely necessary, for example to treat a kidney infection or pneumonia, not to treat common viral infections such as coughs and colds.
- If you do use antibiotics make sure you complete the course to kill all the bacteria that are causing your infection. If there are still some bacteria left when you stop taking antibiotics, the remaining bacteria may become resistant.
Antibiotics are rarely the right choice for treating common ailments. If you find you are suffering from recurring or prolonged coughs, colds, sore throats or ear infections, it may well be that something in your diet or lifestyle is out of balance, or that you may need to consider possible allergies or food intolerances. There are plenty of natural remedies to ease the symptoms of coughs and colds, and by paying attention to nutrition and lifestyle, you can reduce your chances of getting ill without increasing the resistance of antibiotics, which are likely to make you more ill in the long run anyway.