Way back in the 1670’s a textile merchant, inspired by the magnifying glass used for inspecting cloth, built a simple microscope and there it all started. Bacteria was found.
Bacterial cells outnumber human cells in the body by 30%. Trillions of bacterial cells roaming around in there. Yup, I’m grossed out too, but most of the bacteria is the good stuff and the rest we can usually take care of with our trusty immune system.
Penicillin didn’t come along to kill bacteria for 250 years. What it does is weakens the cell walls of the bacteria and it blows up. Oh my…..trillions of things are blowing up inside me and that is going to make me feel better. Good thing the doctor doesn’t tell me everything. So…if you don’t do all the penicillin when you are supposed to, or for as long as you are supposed to not all of the bacteria will blow up. What’s left catches on, mutates, evolves, gets stronger and eventually penicillin doesn’t kill the bacteria anymore. We now have a bacteriostatic that won’t kill the bacteria but it does stop them from reproducing. Unfortunately that darned bug is finding a way around that one too.
A miracle drug can only work its miracles when used as intended. It sounded like a good idea to give it to cows, pigs and chickens because they gained weight on less food which made more food for humans. As it turns out that just put trickles of antibiotics in our systems for the bacteria to slowly and persistently build an immunity to. Ooooppps. We probably didn’t need it in our hand soap either but who knew killing bugs was going to cause such a problem. Bacteria is constantly evolving and becoming more and more resistant to our antibiotics. Science is having a hard time keeping up.
There are some actions we can take to give science, and ourselves, a fighting chance against drug resistant bacteria.
- Ask your doctor
Is there something else I can take that will help fight this illness?
If I don’t take anything will this illness eventually end?
Are we sure this illness is not a virus? (antibiotics do not kill viruses)
- Avoid meat that has been treated with antibiotics
- Eat a healthy amount of immunity building vegetables and fruits to fight the disease carrying bacteria before it gets you sick
- When it is necessary to take an antibiotic to battle an infection take it as prescribed and take the medication until it is gone to be sure you have gotten rid of all of the bacteria causing the illness.
We are in this fight together and boy could we use some good combat boots. If I don’t take my antibiotics as directed I may not kill all of the bacteria which I will then spread that now stronger bacteria, which is learning how to resist that antibiotic I have been taking, to all of my coworkers who bring it home to spouses and kids and they bring it to school and work and so on. No wonder science is having a tough time keeping us in antibiotics that work. Doing everything we can to avoid antibiotics when they are not needed will help science fight a good fight against the resistance.