Scientists and doctors have been warning for years that we are losing the battle against bacterial diseases caused by superbugs because of misuse of the antibiotics used to fight them.

Nevada woman dies of infection

An otherwise healthy woman in her 70’s died last September according to a recent CDC report, after returning to the U.S. for treatment for an infection picked up when she broke a bone in India.

Doctors tried 26 different antibiotics, including the most extreme and dangerous ones in an effort to treat the infection but failed to save the woman who had a bacterial infection which is resistant to all known antibiotics.

The infection was carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), specifically Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Despite intensive treatment the woman developed septic shock and died in hospital.

I wasn’t able to confirm whether or not the recently discovered last ditch effort treatment for septic shock - a chemotherapy drug, Camptothecin, was used but every antibiotic treatment was tried.

India is known to have many resistant bacteria and superbugs because poor sanitation leads to the massive legitimate use of antibiotics to treat infections.

A U.K. report commissioned by MP David Cameron found that if the trend to over treat with antibiotics and the lack of research into new treatments are not reversed by 2050 more people could die of infections than from cancer at an estimated global economic cost of $100 trillion.

Animal antibiotics

In many countries antibiotics are routinely sold in bulk to ranchers who raise the meat animals we consume often leaving some residue of the Medicine in the packaged meat from the animal. The benefit to the rancher is small, just a slight increase in growth weight, but bulk antibiotics are so cheap that it is worth it.

In factory farms and feedlots where animals are crowded into unsanitary pens or fattened in mass groups antibiotics are actually necessary to keep them reasonably healthy - but the bottom line is that making antibiotics generally available to ranchers was a bad choice promoted, of course, mostly by the drug companies.

Sanitizers and antibacterial soap

When you see an ad saying some product will kill 99 or 99.9% of all bacteria on surfaces remember that the ones it doesn’t kill will continue to multiply and eventually become the dominant bacteria in a local ecosystem - bugs which ordinary treatments won’t kill. This can eventually lead to the creation of superbugs which no medicine can kill.

Hand wash products, in particular, are dangerous because many of the ones advertised as antibacterial are actually mutagenic - that is, they contain chemicals which not only kill bacteria but actually trigger mutations, potentially creating new and deadly infections.

The virtue of dirt

The rise of asthma has been tied to children living in too clean an environment - adults who were raised on farms tend to be the most healthy as are those who had dogs as children - both groups are exposed to a greater variety and concentration of bacteria during the early development of their immune systems.

Immune power

As antibiotics lose potency against newly discovered or mutated bacteria the human immune system is rapidly becoming the last line of defense as it already is with virus infections - moving us back to a pre-WWII medical era.