The sad thing is, even animals that aren't sick are given antibiotics. Antibiotics, for some reason, also increase the rate at which animals grow and fatten up. So even healthy livestock get heavy doses of antibiotics. The same is often true for plants; antibiotics sprayed on plants sometimes increase growth. However, overuse of antibiotics also breeds strains of bacteria immune to them, which is really, really bad news for us. I don't think it is worth the 2 cent reduction in the price of beef, either.

Antibiotics: An Overused Remedy

For about 50 years, antibiotics have been the answer to many, if not all, bacterial infections. Doctors prescribed antibiotic medicines to cure many diseases, eliminate infection and shorten healing time. But within the bodies of patients receiving those prescriptions, not all of the targeted bacteria died. Resistant strains survived, proliferated and a new resistant generation was born. People may believe that modern medical science will always have the solution, yet with each decade, bacteria that are resistant to not one, but multiple antibiotics are selected for in the breeding ground of the human body. A plan for action must be created to prevent the advent of super bugs that are resistant to anything and everything.

Resistance to antibiotics can be the result of several things: One is the overuse or improper use of antibiotic agents. Unfortunately, many people believe that when they get sick, antibiotics are the answer. The more a drug is used, the less effect it has on the bacteria it was designed to kill.

Another cause of resistance is the improper use of prescription and over the counter drugs. Some patients feel that their symptoms have improved, and then discontinue use of the drug. But not finishing the prescription may allow some bacteria to survive and be immune to a second dose. Prescribed drugs should be taken until all the medicine is gone so the disease is completely eliminated. After the prescription is finished, your body’s immune system can eliminate any remaining bacteria.

Bacteria are also capable of picking up resistance traits from free-floating DNA. If the DNA is from a species of bacteria that has developed resistance, like certain types that have always lived near penicillin. Those resistant bacteria die, and their DNA remains intact. When DNA enters a single bacterium, it moves to the nucleus where it may be incorporated into the next generation of offspring from that cell.

Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928. While growing bacteria colonies, he noticed clear spots in the cultures. He realized that a fungus growth had killed off bacteria in his experiment. Penicillin works by attaching to a cell wall and breaking it down until the bacterium breaks up. It was to be the most prolific antibiotic ever.

Penicillin was hailed as a miracle drug. Drug companies mass produced it, but a few years later doctors noticed the first signs of resistance developing. Staphylococcus aureus was the first to be documented, and many would follow.

Antibiotic resistance spreads fast through careless use of antibiotics but efforts are being made to slow it. Improving infection control, isolation of hospital infections, the development of new antibiotics, and taking drugs more appropriately are ways to prevent resistant bacteria from spreading. In developing nations, approaches are being made to control infections such as mandating hand washing by health care workers and identifying drug resistant infections quickly to keep them away from others. Already, the World Health Organization has begun a global computer program that reports any outbreaks of drug-resistant bacterial infections.

Doctors, patients, and governments must cooperate and work together to create an environment of education, research and proper use. When that happens, further development in the fight against resistance may take place.

Bibliography

Bylinsky, Gene. Sept. 5,1995. The new fight against killer microbes. Fortune. p. 74-76.

Dixon, Bernard. March 17,1995. Return of the killer bugs. New Statesman & Society. p. 29-32.

Levy, Stuart B. Jan. 15,1995. Dawn of the post-antibiotic era? Patient Care. p. 84-86.

Lewis, Ricki. Sept. 1995. The rise of antibiotic-resistant infections. FDA Consumer. p. 11-15.

Miller, Julie Ann. June 1995. Preparing for the postantibiotic era. BioScience.

Why you should always finish a course of antibiotics

An antibiotic is a substance which targets growth of microorganisms and is used to treat some sort of infection.

The idea behind a course of antibiotics is that you have a constant intake at more or less regularly spaced intervals. This maintains a constant level of the antibiotic in your system, which will then battle the infection.

The problem lies with the fact that these bacteria are very good at:

  1. Feigning death; and
  2. Developing a resistance to antibiotics

The course should be calculated by your doctor to sufficiently deal with the problem, and completely exterminate the infection. So for example, if you take half the course and decide your infection is gone, and discontinue your intake of antibiotics, there is a slight chance that there is some of the infection remaining. The problem is that now the bacteria have a resistance to your antibiotic! So if allowed to return, the infection will be now untreatable or highly unresponsive to the original antibiotic.

Needless to say, this is a Bad Thing (tm), so you should always complete the entire course as prescribed by your doctor. Only ever discontinue your intake if you are absolutely sure your infection is gone, and then only after you have sought approval from your doctor.

Another reason for the more widespread development of resistive bacteria is the wide use of antibiotics these days. Especially in a hospital environment where the bacteria are constantly exposed to antibiotics and other drugs, they can soon build up a resistance. This then has the potential to get out of hand and reach the point where most of the conventional treatments in modern medicine are useless.

Its a scary thought, and perhaps we should tone down on the drugs we use to prevent this sort of thing happening!


(Interesting points which I do not have the time to fully research at the moment...)
m_turner says related topics:

  • the top 5 most deadly bacteria are immune to most antibotics.
  • Antibiotics are fed to cows as a staple!
  • The use of multiple antibiotics at the same time.
  • Bacterial gene transfer.

Do antibiotics cause breast cancer?

The Short Answer:

Probably not.

The Long Answer:

In early 2004, a study linking antibiotics to breast cancer splashed onto the scene. What is the nature of this link? The study indicated higher prevalence of antibiotic use among 2226 women with breast cancer compared to 7953 without. Still, these data do not indicate a causal link between antibiotics and breast cancer. In other words, we still do not know if antibiotic use causes breast cancer. The reason for the ambiguity is in the probability of confounding factors. Because a randomized study of this nature would be unethical, the researchers chose to analyze existing data.  Such case-control studies are susceptible to confounding factors, since researchers cannot control all of the variables involved, such as the distribution of antibiotics and the distribution of existing medical conditions among the groups.

For example, perhaps women who use antibiotics are intrinsically less healthy than those who don't, and their breast cancer comes from other sources. Another possible counfounding issue is the possibility that antibiotics actually help prevent breast cancer, and that prevalence of breast cancer would be much higher in this sample population had these women not used antibiotics.

Socioeconomic influences may also cause statistical problems for the validity of the study. Women who have more economic resources may receive more antibiotic use as well as more preventative care for breast cancer. This increase in preventive care may explain the increase in breast cancer detection among those who used antibiotics. In other words, perhaps breast cancer occurs just as frequently in the control group, however it goes undetected and therefore is not counted in the study, In fact, only 42% of the control group received mammographies in the two years preceding the study.

The authors of the study do claim to statistically adjust for most of the confounding possibilities, however critics point out that too many missing variables exist to conclude a statistical link. Moreover, even if a correlation exists, biologists are still unsure of a biological mechanism. Two theories about how antibiotics could chemically cause breast cancer do exist, although neither have been verified.

The Phytochemical Scenario

Antibiotics might impair the body's ability to metabolize phytochemicals. These phytocemicals help break down carcinogens, which may go on to cause breast cancer.

The Cyclooxygenase 2 Scenario

Cyclooxygenase 2 is an enzyme that has been previously associate with breast cancer. The body uses cyclooxygenase 2 to break down prostaglandin E2. Antibiotics might stimulate the creation of prostaglandin E2 in the body, which would cause the body to over produce cyclooxygenase 2.


Velicer CM, Heckbert SR, Lampe JW, Potter JD, Robertson CA, Taplin SH. Antibiotic use in relation to the risk of breast cancer. JAMA. 2004;291:827-835.

Ness RB, Cauley JA. Antibiotics and Breast Cancer- What's the meaning of this? JAMA. 2004;291:880,881

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