On the Effects of Antibiotics

Antibiotics Have Turned Our Bodies From Gardens Into Battlefields

Antibiotics save lives, but they also wipe out a lot of beneficial organisms that our bodies rely on, says Martin Blaser.    João Canziani

We’re in the midst of an extinction crisis, and it doesn’t involve Siberian tigers. Microbiologist Martin Blaser of New York University School of Medicine says that many species of germs are disappearing from our bodies—and that’s a problem.

In his new book, Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues, Blaser argues that while antibiotics have saved countless lives, they’re an assault on our microbiome. His experiments have linked the resulting extinctions to disorders from asthma to obesity. wired spoke to Blaser about the need to look at our bodies less as battlefields to be conquered and more as gardens to be tended.

You’ve studied the Helicobacter pylori bacterium, which causes ulcers and gastric cancer. That sounds like something you would want to wipe out.

H. pylori is responsible for 80 percent or more of stomach cancer cases. But as we were studying it, we kept finding it in healthy people all over the world. I began to think, “Well, if everybody has it, maybe it’s not so bad.”

What’s so good about it?

Our research shows that people who have H. pylori are less likely to have childhood-onset asthma and hay fever.

If one species can have that effect, it’s fascinating to think about what all the other species we harbor are doing. How many species are we talking about?

The average person probably has at least several thousand. But we don’t really know. We’re in the early days of discovery.

And where are all these germs?

Maybe everywhere. Each of the major skin zones—oily skin, moist skin, and dry skin—has its own predominant microbiota. The mouth is a very rich ecosystem: Each tooth has its own series of niches. The top of the tongue and the bottom of the tongue are different. Where the tooth goes into the gum, what’s called the gingival crevice, that has a very rich microbiota—it’s probably as bacterially dense as the colon. But obviously smaller volume.

So what do all these bacteria actually do for us?

They help us extract energy from food. We’ve outsourced the ability to make certain vitamins to our microbes. And then there’s defense: The good guys help us fight off the bad guys. They can also affect the brain, because a lot of serotonin is made in the gut by neuroendocrine cells that are in conversation with the microbiota.

Where do the antibiotics come in then?

“Why don’t we just give some antibiotics, because it can’t hurt?” That’s how people think—doctors and patients alike. But our data says it does hurt. So we’re going to have to change our approach. If every time a baby takes a course of antibiotics, it’s going to increase their chance of getting diabetes or Crohn’s disease or obesity or asthma, maybe doctors will say, “Well, this is not without risk, so let’s wait a day and see if your baby gets better.”

My hypothesis is that every time someone takes antibiotics, a few species go to extinction in that person. I don’t have proof of this. But we know that the popu­lation sizes of some of the organisms are pretty small. For 50 or 70 years, every­body thought that if you take an antibiotic it will have some short-term effects and then everything will bounce back to normal. But why should they bounce back? If certain less common organisms disappeared, we might not even know.

So how can we take fewer antibiotics but still use them when they’ll save our lives?

We need better diagnostics so we can tell bacterial infections from viral ones. And if it’s a bacterium, which one is it? We’d have to develop drugs for each. That’s a sea change from the impetus over the past 70 years to create broad-spectrum antibiotics. We can either pay for the development of the diagnostics and the drugs, or we can pay for it at the clinic with the illnesses that are coming from this.

What about hand sanitizers?

I have a small photo gallery: When I see a hand sanitizer in a new place I take a picture of it. They’re very important in hospitals, but what’s the rationale for hand sanitizers everywhere? They don’t have antibiotics in them, but they have antibacterials like triclosan. Triclosan is in our soaps and our deodorants, in our clothes, in our pizza cutters, in our staplers. It’s everywhere. This is a germophobia that is unsupported.

What do you think of the probiotics sold in grocery stores?

In general they’re safe—they don’t seem to be associated with health problems. But with few exceptions, they haven’t been tested in rigorous clinical studies. The future will hold a lot of probiotics, but we’re going to have to discover what their specific activities are and when we need to use them. Maybe there will be particu­lar bacteria that are good to give to kids with asthma. Maybe if there’s one that turns off Th1 immune cells, that will be a good probiotic for people with rheuma­toid arthritis. I think we’ll be able to harness these microbes, just as we’ve har­nessed the microbes that make bread and beer for us.

from:    http://www.wired.com/2014/04/martin-blaser-antibiotics/

Antibiotic Created Apocalyse

Why the post-antibiotic world is the real-life version of the zombie apocalypse
The perverse economics of the antibiotics industry means the human race could be in trouble
By John Aziz | November 26, 2013
Bacteria are outsmarting our drugs.
Bacteria are outsmarting our drugs. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Right now, humanity is engaged in an epic battle against fast-adapting and merciless predators. No, zombies are not beating down doors to tear chunks of flesh out of the living. Rather, humanity is being hunted by deadly pathogenic bacteria that have gained resistance to antibiotics.

And thanks to the peculiar incentives that drive the pharmaceutical industry, it looks like the cavalry may be a long time in coming.

To understand the current state of the antibiotics market, we have to go back millennia. Humans have co-existed with bacteria throughout our history. They live in our bodies from birth to death. It’s estimated that up to three percent of a typical human’s body mass is made up of symbiotic bacteria, which assist us with bodily functions like digesting food.

Most bacteria in the human body are kept in check by the body’s immune system. But bacteria are constantly evolving to survive and reproduce. Either the immune system successfully adapts to new threats, or the body risks being overrun. Sometimes the immune system will fail to respond to a novel bacterial threat, allowing the bacteria to kill the host.

Before antibiotics were widely available, any accident, injury, or medical procedure that allowed pathogenic bacteria into the body was potentially deadly. One in nine skin infections was fatal. One in three cases of pneumonia led to death. Invasive surgeries including caesarean sections left the patient open to killer infections. Insect bites, burns, and blood transfusions frequently became a source of infection.

So the discovery of the first antibiotic, penicillin, by Alexander Fleming in 1928 remains one of the high points in medical history. Antibiotics kill bacteria, which meant wounds were no longer death sentences. Yet when Fleming won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1945, he warned of the dangers of antibiotic resistance:

It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them… There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.

Fleming’s prediction was right. Penicillin-resistant bacteria arrived while the drug was still being given to only a few patients. Each new class of antibiotics since then has soon been greeted by resistant bacteria.

One breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria is in farm animals. Low doses of antibiotics have been used since the 1950s to enhance growth. In the U.S., over 80 percent of all antibiotics are now used on farm animals. But low doses encourage resistance, just as Fleming warned. Recent studies show that antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found widely in farm animals raised for meat, as well as wild animals, including crows, foxes, and sharks.

Scientists are fighting a running evolutionary battle with the bugs. A patient in New Zealand died this year after contracting an infection resistant to all known antibiotics. Doctors declared him the first patient of the “post-antibiotic era.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned that drug-resistant bacteria kill at least 23,000 people annually in the U.S, and cost the health care system $20 billion per year.

Unfortunately for the human race, research into antibiotics remains costly. One estimate suggests that the cost of bringing a new antibiotic to market is over $1 billion, and that new antibiotics lose $50 million on average. There are far more profitable drugs for pharmaceutical companies to throw money at, since antibiotics are usually single-serve drugs for humans, not long-term treatments.

Drugs for chronic conditions tend to be more profitable. And with drug resistance quickly evolving, rendering older antibiotics ineffective, pharmaceutical companies have even less incentive to invest in the drugs.

The economics are perverse. Taking preventative action today would not be very profitable because there are fewer potential customers. The incentives to produce more and better antibiotics only kick in under the worst circumstances, when millions of people are dying from antibiotic-resistant infections.

With investment, there would be plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. New antibiotics today are typically discovered by culturing bacteria in a laboratory, and scientists so far have cultured less than one percent of the bacterial species on the planet, meaning there is still a huge pool of possibilities out there that remains untested.

There are also a large variety of organic compounds — for example, from insects — that may hold promise as antibacterials. Some scientists are even looking into the possibility of using nanotechnology to fight bacteria — tiny machines that can hunt down pathogenic bacteria and destroy them. Sooner or later, one of these approaches may yield an innovation that pathogenic bacteria cannot develop resistance to.

In July 2012, President Obama signed the GAIN (Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now) Act, a bipartisan bill to fast-track the creation of new antibiotics. Twelve new antibiotics in development have so far received fast-track status, which should speed up the approval of new drugs for difficult-to-treat conditions.

But whether the law will be sufficient to create enough new antibiotics to win the evolutionary arms race remains to be seen. Developing antibiotics is still expensive, and the antibiotics that we do have are still being over-prescribed for humans and doled out in sub-clinical doses to farm animals — both of which gives bacteria opportunities to develop resistance.

If the problem continues to grow, the U.S. and other countries will have to invest a whole lot more in antimicrobial technologies, or create incentives for Big Pharma to do so. Like the zombie apocalypse, the post-antibiotic world would not be a pretty place to live in.

from:    http://theweek.com/article/index/253397/why-the-post-antibiotic-world-is-the-real-life-version-of-the-zombie-apocalypse

Antibiotic Resistance


Antibiotic Resistance Poses ‘Catastrophic Threat’ To Medicine, Says Britain’s Top Health Official

Reuters  |  By Kate Kelland Posted: 03/10/2013 11:10 pm EDT

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) – Antibiotic resistance poses a catastrophic threat to medicine and could mean patients having minor surgery risk dying from infections that can no longer be treated, Britain’s top health official said on Monday.

Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, said global action is needed to fight antibiotic, or antimicrobial, resistance and fill a drug “discovery void” by researching and developing new medicines to treat emerging, mutating infections.

Only a handful of new antibiotics have been developed and brought to market in the past few decades, and it is a race against time to find more, as bacterial infections increasingly evolve into “superbugs” resistant to existing drugs.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics,” Davies told reporters as she published a report on infectious disease.

“And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.”

One of the best known superbugs, MRSA, is alone estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the United States – far more than HIV and AIDS – and a similar number in Europe.

And others are spreading. Cases of totally drug resistant tuberculosis have appeared in recent years and a new wave of “super superbugs” with a mutation called NDM 1, which first emerged in India, has now turned up all over the world, from Britain to New Zealand.

Last year the WHO said untreatable superbug strains of gonorrhoea were spreading across the world.

Laura Piddock, a professor of microbiology at Birmingham University and director of the campaign group Antibiotic Action, welcomed Davies’ efforts to raise awareness of the problem.

“There are an increasing number of infections for which there are virtually no therapeutic options, and we desperately need new discovery, research and development,” she said.

Davies called on governments and organisations across the world, including the World Health Organisation and the G8, to take the threat seriously and work to encourage more innovation and investment into the development of antibiotics.

“Over the past two decades there has been a discovery void around antibiotics, meaning diseases have evolved faster than the drugs to treat them,” she said.

Davies called for more cooperation between the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to preserve the existing arsenal of antibiotics, and more focus on developing new ones.

Increasing surveillance to keep track of drug-resistant superbugs, prescribing fewer antibiotics and making sure they are only prescribed when needed, and ensuring better hygiene to keep infections to a minimum were equally important, she said.

Nigel Brown, president of the Society for General Microbiology, agreed the issues demanded urgent action and said its members would work hard to better understand infectious diseases, reduce transmission of antibiotic resistance, and help develop new antibiotics.

“The techniques of microbiology and new developments such as synthetic biology will be crucial in achieving this,” he said. (Editing by Jason Webb)

from:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/10/antibiotic-resistance-catastrophic-threat_n_2850651.html?ir=Healthy+Living

Microflora. Physical Health, Mental Well-Being fr/Dr. Mercola

The Wide-Ranging Influence of Gut Microbes on Your Mental and Physical Health

September 05 2012

By Dr. Mercola

Story at-a-glance

  • Ninety percent of the genetic material in your body is NOT yours. It is from the nearly 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms that compose your microflora
  • Your microflora influence your genetic expression, your immune system, weight, mental health, memory, and your risk of numerous chronic and acute diseases, from diabetes to cancer
  • It is becoming increasingly clear that destroying your gut flora with antibiotics and poor diet is a primary factor in rising disease rates. Recent research suggests intestinal inflammation may play a crucial role in the development of certain cancers
  • Avoiding antibiotics (including those from conventionally-raised meats and rBGH-laced milk), adhering to a low-sugar diet, along with plenty of unpasteurized fermented foods and/or a high-quality probiotic supplement, are crucial elements for restoring and maintaining both your gut’s inner ecosystem and your overall health. Make sure to avoid both conventionally-raised meat and milk laced with rBGH

There are 100 trillion cells in your body, but 90% of the genetic material is not yours. It is from the bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms, i.e. your microflora. Gut microbes are big in the news lately, as researchers continue to discover the important roles these tiny organisms play in your overall health and well-being. We now know that your microflora influence your:

  • Genetic expression
  • Immune system
  • Weight, and
  • Risk of numerous chronic and acute diseases, from diabetes to cancer

Most recently, research has shown that a certain set of these microbes may actually influence the activity of genes in your brain – and the parts they play are not small parts. They may work to manipulate your behavior, and your memory as well.

Microbes Manipulate Your Mind

According to a recent article in The Guardian1, certain species of gut bacteria have been found to influence gene activity in your brain. Some of this research was published in 2011.2 Mice lacking gut bacteria were found to engage in “high-risk behavior,” and this altered behavior was accompanied by neurochemical changes in the mouse brain.

According to the authors, microbiota (your gut flora) may play a role in the communication between your gut and your brain, and:

“Acquisition of intestinal microbiota in the immediate postnatal period has a defining impact on the development and function of the gastrointestinal, immune, neuroendocrine and metabolic systems. For example, the presence of gut microbiota regulates the set point for hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity.”

But they also discovered other differences between the mice with normal gut flora and those lacking gut bacteria. When examining the animals’ brains, they discovered a number of genetic alterations in the germ-free mice. According to The Guardian:

“Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) was significantly up-regulated, and the 5HT1A serotonin receptor sub-type down-regulated, in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. The gene encoding the NR2B subunit of the NMDA receptor was also down-regulated in the amygdala.

All three genes have previously been implicated in emotion and anxiety-like behaviors.

BDNF is a growth factor that is essential for proper brain development, and a recent study showed that deleting the BDNF receptor TrkB alters the way in which newborn neurons integrate into hippocampal circuitry and increases anxiety-like behaviors in mice. Serotonin receptors, which are distributed widely throughout the brain, are well known to be involved in mood, and compounds that activate the 5HT1A subtype also produce anxiety-like behaviors.

The finding that the NR2B subunit of the NMDA receptor down-regulated in the amygdala is particularly interesting. NMDA receptors are composed of multiple subunits, but those made up of only NR2B subunits are known to be critical for the development and function of the amygdala, which has a well established role in fear and other emotions, and in learning and memory. Drugs that block these receptors have been shown to block the formation of fearful memories and to reduce the anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal in rodents.”

for the rest of the article, go to:    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/09/05/microbes-manipulate-your-mind.aspx?e_cid=20120905_DNL_artNew_1

Amazing Garlic

Scientists: Garlic Fights Common Illness Better than Antibiotics

7th May 2012

By Anthony Gucciardi

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

Scientists at Washington State University are now confirming once again what natural health experts have known for years — garlic fights one of the most common food-borne illnesses much more effectively than antibiotics. Garlic has built a strong reputation in fighting infections, a benefit that is but one of many.

Campylobacter bacterium, the name for the common bacteria that often results in intestinal illness, affects around 2.4 million Americans per year and is often treated with illness-linked antibiotics, but maybe not anymore.


According to the researchers, the information ‘opens the door’ to the many benefits of garlic when it comes to preventing and fighting infections. This means treating certain food items, cleaning, and use as a healing food substance. Once again, however, these mainstream scientists are simply re-discovering what many cultures have known (and have been utilizing) for centuries! It’s no secret that garlic is really a nutritional powerhouse, a superfood that can boost overall immunity and combat diseases — even superviruses that have the medical community in a frenzy.

Even Greek athletes used garlic to boost their physical performance in the arena due to the deep knowledge of the food’s empowering properties. Leading expert Dr. David Kraus explains:

“People have known garlic was important and has health benefits for centuries,” said Dr. David W. Kraus, associate professor of environmental science and biology at the University of Alabama. “Even the Greeks would feed garlic to their athletes before they competed in the Olympic games.”

Garlic even has a role in the prevention of cancer — the disease that is currently ravaging the population. In fact, it is a role that is quite notorious among cultures who have been using garlic in their dishes for countless years. Scientists believe that the role of garlic in cancer prevention quite possibly has to do with the way that garlic boosts the production of something known as hydrogen sulfide. It is this very substance that also protects the heart. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that directly injecting hydrogen sulfide into mice almost completely stopped damage to heart muscles as a result of heart attack.

The benefits of garlic are many, and the mainstream scientific community is just catching on to how important of a role garlic plays in the diet

from:    http://wakeup-world.com/2012/05/07/scientists-garlic-fights-common-illness-better-than-antibiotics/

Rethinking Antibiotics

Overuse of Antibiotics Is Seen Behind Many Human Ills

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 24 August 2011 Time: 04:30 PM ET

You were not meant to be alone: The human body contains and is covered in an almost unimaginably large number of microbes. But eradicating them as we do, intentionally and unintentionally, with the prolific use of antibiotics may be harming our health, according to one scientist who studies our minuscule companions.

“Overuse of antibiotics could be fueling the dramatic increase in conditions such as obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and asthma, which have more than doubled in many populations,” writes Martin Blaser, a professor of microbiology and chairman of the department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center.

Humans are sometimes called meta-organisms, because of the sheer number and volume of microbes that share our bodies — living in our guts, on our skin, even in our belly buttons. Evidence is building for the benefits these healthy microbial communities offer us. They help us access nutrients, such as vitamin K, and energy from complex carbohydrates. They deter dangerous infections, and recent evidence indicates they help keep at bay multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders.