|health & fitness|
Superbugs Rising in Hospitals
Here we have two directly related news items. One, that the incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals is rising, and second, that the amount of antibiotics fed to live stock as a precautionary measure has increased substantially.
Please note that no mention of antibiotics fed to livestock is made in the first article. It is only concerned about overuse of antibiotic in human medication. This is a very serious, even incomprehensible omission, since by far the greatest amount of antibiotics produced in North America - about 70% - is routinely fed to healthy livestock as a precautionary measure, and to increase production.
Because of this routine use of antibiotics in raising livestock, we are constantly exposed to mild doses of a wide range of antibiotics in the meat products we consume - just the perfect condition for bacteria in our environment to become lightly exposed, and to develop resistance to these antibiotics.
There is also a great irony here - an irony which may yet prove deadly in the near future. If the fodder of livestock did include the complete natural range of the 72+ trace elements - which is doesn't - the animals would have fiercely effective immune systems and be be supremely healthy - and supplemental antibiotics would be totally unnecessary.
Meanwhile though, and while these people come to their senses - I hope - you can bring your own immune system up to supreme effectiveness by including one or more servings of seafood in your daily nutrition.
Antibiotic Resistance Down in Community; Up in Hospitals
According to a story on www.canoe.ca, a canadian news service, there is good news and bad news in Canada's war against antibiotic resistance, reports from the front line suggest. Antimicrobial resistance in the community -- among people not in hospitals -- has leveled off and may be dropping, a success story for those who have been campaigning for the prudent use of the important and potent drugs.
But the bad news more than mitigates the good. The spread of more serious strains of resistant bacteria in hospitals has increased three-to four-fold since 1995, members of a national antibiotic resistance monitoring group said Tuesday as they issued one of their periodic report cards on the problem.
While rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus -- more commonly called MRSA -- are still low in Canada, hospitals could be on the brink of an exponential rise in cases, members of the national information program on antibiotics warned.
And health-care cutbacks are at least partly to blame, said Dr. John Conly, chairman of the Canadian committee on antimicrobial resistance. "You know, it is quite possible that the effect of cutbacks play a role in this," admitted Conly, the director of infection control for Toronto General Hospital.
"Some people have said our hospitals are dirtier than what they have been in the past as we've seen cutbacks to housekeeping and other areas. We've certainly documented that in our institution with a VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococcus) outbreak which had occurred in the setting of a major reduction in housekeeping staff."
VRE is a particularly frightening because vancomycin is the antibiotic of last resort.
Specialists who construct mathematical models have predicted the rise of MRSA will follow a curve. So far, their predictions have been spot on, with the rate rising from 0.5 cases per 1,000 beds in 1995 to 1.5 per 1,000 beds in 1997 and four cases per 1,000 in 1999. "It's concerning because we're very close to where the modelling curve starts to take off into a rapid exponential increase," Conly said. "And that's the issue: Are we on the edge of the precipice now?"
"In the hospital, I think that . . . methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is probably one of the most serious problems we have to contend with," said Dr. Donald Low, head of Toronto Medical Laboratories and the department of microbiology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The monitoring group, which was formed in 1996, has been trying to educate doctors and the public of the dangers of indiscriminate and inappropriate use -- and misuse -- of antibiotics. Antibiotics were considered miracle drugs when first discovered in the late 1920s. After heart medications, they are the second most commonly prescribed type of drug in Canada.
But the bacteria they target are a perfect example of natural selection in operation. As science develops antibiotics to fight bacterial illnesses such as pneumonia, allmost all of them are are killed off. However, due to a combination of genetic variation and exposure to an antibiotic, there are always a few bacteria who happen to have the right genes to be immune to the antibiotic. These bacteria then proliferate unchecked.
Worse, bacteria have five different methods of swapping genes, and can very easily and readily pass on their resistance to other non-exposed bacteria.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact many people take antibiotics when they don't need them, such as when they have a cold or another virus. Antibiotics don't kill viruses. In addition, many people don't take antibiotics properly. Instead of taking the full course of the medication, they quit when they feel better - making it much easier for some bacteria to survive and develop resistance.
Left unchecked, antimicrobial resistance could create a nightmare scenario where medicine would have few or no drugs to fight potentially deadly strains of bugs. Tracking has shown that the incidence of penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumonia, which peaked around 1998, has levelled off or even decreased since, as the message of the threat of antibiotic resistance has spread, Low said.
That is a form of resistance more commonly found among people being treated for ailments outside hospital. Streptococcus pneumonia causes middle ear infections, sinusitis, bacterial meningitis and pneumonia. "We need this information to convince patients it does make a difference," Low said. "That if you reduce inappropriate use, we may see resistance start to decrease." But no one should see that as an opportunity to let down the guard, he warned. The battle against antimicrobial resistance is here to stay.
"We're going to see resistance develop to every antibiotic that we develop. "It's a numbers game. Trying to control the rate at which that resistance emerges as well as trying to keep it at a level where it reduces the risk for individuals. So that it becomes an unusual thing, rather than a common thing."
Healthy Livestock Given More Antibiotics Than Ever
According to a report released Jan. 8. 2001, about 70% of the antibiotics produced in the USA each year -- nearly 25 million pounds in all -- are fed to healthy pigs, chickens and cattle to prevent disease or speed growth. Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said such ''excessive'' use of antibiotics in livestock is contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
''The use of antibiotics in human medicine remains the biggest contributor to the problem of antibiotic resistance,'' says Mellon, because these drugs act directly on the germs causing human disease. ''But this study suggests the contribution of animal use is likely to be greater than people had thought.'' The report's estimate is far higher than the 17.8 million pounds of antibiotics used in livestock that was reported a year ago by the Animal Health Institute, which represents veterinary drug companies.
Exact data on the quantity of drugs fed to livestock have been hard to come by. Carole Throssell DuBois of the Animal Health Institute says that ''more information is needed,'' and that the new report overestimates drug use. ''Our numbers aren't exact either,'' she says, ''but we feel our numbers are more exact because they came from the industry.''
The new report, which is on the Web at www.ucsusa.org, estimates that 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics are used for ''non-therapeutic'' purposes in livestock, including 10.3 million pounds in hogs, 10.5 million pounds in poultry and 3.7 million pounds in cattle. The numbers are based on the number of animals slaughtered each year and the types and doses of antibiotics approved for them, Mellon says.
Please note: I'll gladly speak at any group on this extremely powerful subject
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