Putting antibiotics into perspective – John Scott

Antibiotics offer benefits with significant risks

While taking an antibiotic can, in some circumstances, be a life-saving intervention, over half of all antibiotics cause adverse reactions. They also inevitably lay waste vast numbers of indigenous intestinal microorganisms, a loss from which we may only slowly, and possibly never completely recover, if less desirable organisms win control in the repopulation process.

Our gut microbiota represents a second genome that is essential to our health, and we rely on beneficial bacteria to complete a number of crucial tasks such as digesting food, manufacturing vitamins and protecting us from invading pathogens. Any antibiotic-induced bacterial imbalance can therefore have long-term consequences, including, potentially, the development of a range of diseases, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, food intolerance and obesity.

Antibiotics cause bacterial mutation

Any use of antibiotics has the potential to encourage drug resistance on the part of bacteria, leading to the possible development of new ’superbugs’.

Until recently, the process by which antibiotic resistance develops had been thought to be a passive phenomenon, occurring when a mutation or a bit of newly acquired DNA enables a microbe to evade the effects of antibiotics or render them harmless. Natural selection was thought to then allow these particular microbes to outcompete their non-resistant peers.

However, in the last 6 years, researchers have discovered that mutation rates in bacteria may respond to other factors, such as the production, in response to antibiotics, of free radicals that can then cause mutations in bacterial DNA, including some that happen to cause resistance.

A new study explains how this can occur as a result of using lower strength, non-lethal antibiotic concentrations, and how the resulting resistance may not be limited to the particular antibiotic used, but affect other antibiotics as well.

Put simply, antibiotics are not just selecting specific mutations, they are actually causing them.

Antibiotic misuse rebounds on humans and the environment

The issue of increased antibiotic resistance is not just a problem in clinical settings, but also in the wider environment. New evidence shows that even soil microbes have become progressively more resistant to antibiotics over the last 60 years, and that this has even occurred in the Netherlands in spite of stringent rules on the use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture and improvements to sewage treatment technology.

It’s clearly a no-brainer that antibiotics should be reserved for life-threatening situations, rather than being squandered on every run-of-the-mill infection that develops. And it also seems madness to continue to allow the value of these drugs in combatting serious infection to be compromised by routinely injecting chickens and dosing pigs and cattle to promote animal growth and producer profits, when the result is low-level exposure to all who eat these animals. While Europe now eschews the use of antibiotics for growth promotion US farmers apparently remain unpersuaded about the need for this change.

Antibiotics to avoid at all costs

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (e.g. Levaquin, Cipro, Floxin, Tequin) are one particular type to be avoided at all costs. This group of drugs, often prescribed for mild infections such as sinusitis and urinary or prostate infections, can cause severe reactions with long-term consequences. The reactions can occur after just a few doses, can be acute, frightening, extremely painful, and can last for weeks, months or even years. Worst of all, there is no effective treatment for them.

Doctors frequently dismiss any suggestion of a connection between these effects and fluoroquinolone antibiotics, but there is clear evidence for the link, as can be seen from a number of websites carrying material on Fluoroquinolone Syndrome, such as FQResearch.org, Mercola.com, MedicationSense.com and FQVictins.org.

Antibiotics are often prescribed unnecessarily by doctors who feel obliged to give their patients at least some form of treatment for their symptoms, but infections will usually clear up without any treatment. One particularly wise medic whom I once consulted because of an infection refused to give me any treatment, saying, “If I treat it, it will take two weeks; if I don’t, it will take a fortnight.”

There are safe, effective natural antibiotics

There is really no need to use antibiotics for everyday infections in humans because there are effective natural alternatives to pharmaceutical antibiotics that are ideal for this purpose.

Arguably the best natural antibiotic is colloidal silver, which is actually far safer, more effective and less expensive than the side effect-laden mainstream antibiotics, contrary to the disinformation about this substance that continues to be regurgitatied by mainstream medicine. Even the best and strongest of officially-approved pharmaceutical antibiotics are only effective for a handful of bacteria at best, whereas colloidal silver is effective on a much broader scale and can kill even the most deadly pathogens. Used sensibly, colloidal silver is entirely harmless to humans and it does not create resistance or immunity in pathogens.

Additional effective, safe and cheap natural antibiotics have recently been discovered in the form of essential oils, which are even able to combat drug-resistant hospital superbugs. Thyme and cinnamon were found to be particularly efficient against a range of Staphylococcus species, with thyme being able to almost completely eliminate bacteria within 60 minutes.

Infection avoidance is the best course

Clearly, the best course is to avoid infection in the first place, and a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle will go a long way towards this goal by enhancing immunity. In particular, the optimisation of one’s vitamin D level will effectively seal the fate of most marauding pathogens, as demonstrated by this must-read article. And vitamin D is very ably supported by vitamin C, a very potent nutrient that continues to be cold-shouldered by mainstream medicine as a result of the double standards applied by Western medicine when assessing the efficacy of vitamins compared with pharmaceutical drugs.

Probiotics can also assist in preventing infection, as shown by yet another study that has recently added more data in support of this approach, which is both safe and non-invasive, and does not create bacterial resistance. Moreover, it was found that not only are harmless probiotics able to protect animals against pathogenic bacteria, but they can also treat an existing infection, and can do so as effectively as the best available antibiotics.

Some drugs encourage infection

Finally, anyone wanting a vital and vigilant immune system, must be careful what pharmaceutical drugs they take, as some can prevent the body’s attempts to fight invading organisms. For example, the statin drug, simvastatin, which is widely prescribed to prevent cardiovascular disease, actually impairs the ability of macrophages to kill pathogens, and then, in a double whammy, it goes on to enhance the production of cytokines that trigger and sustain inflammation.



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First Published in 2010

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