The Facts

Antibiotic Resistance

In the mid 19th and 20th centuries scientists began focusing on fighting infectious diseases based on the concept that many diseases are a result of the actions of bacteria in our body.

Louis Pasteur, french microbiologist and chemist, is considered the father of microbiology because of his studies in the germ theory of disease. His research led to various vaccines and of course “pasteurization”–a process that prevents bacterial contamination from milk and wines.

Heinrich Robert Koch was another important microbiologist.
In the late 1800’s Dr. Koch identified the specific causative agents of tuberculosis, cholera and anthrax, supporting the concept of infectious disease.

Alexander Fleming, a Scottish microbiologist focused his research on killing bacteria, thus making a discovery in 1928 that changed the world and saved lives: penicillin, the first modern day antibiotic.

Additional antibiotics were added to the mix including Tetracycline, Erythromycin, Chlorampenicol, Amoxicillin and more. Antibiotics have helped reduce and stop epidemics, helped prevent infections in surgery and in cancer treatments and have saved many lives. They have been a miracle drug across the globe.

But we are overusing and misusing Antibiotics which is leading for some to antibiotic resistance.

Here is an example of how it all works. We get an ear infection and take antibiotics. The doctor gives us a container of pills to take each day for a week. We take the antibiotic pills. They get absorbed into the bloodstream and travel to the gut and then to the organs and tissues destroying all bacteria in their way, and we are cured. Then we get another ear infection, a tooth infection, Lyme Disease, etc. And, we eat a lot of beef from cows that were fed antibiotics. Due to the pernicious nature of ingesting low doses of antibiotics over time, our bodies begin to manifest this misuse and overuse in ways that are not fully understood, and in some cases, the signs can be very abrupt, even death. This explosion of antibiotics in the body kills healthy bacteria as well as bacteria that carries pathogens. The problem with overuse of the antibiotic pill is that when all bacteria are killed, antibiotic resistant bacteria have a chance to duplicate and grow. And so the host–our bodies–start producing antibiotic resistant bacteria that can harm us when we next get sick.

On June 26, 1945 Alexander Fleming warned us of antibiotic resistance, or when bacterial resistance to antibiotics develops, we get sick and we can’t fight off the illness.
He said: “the microbes are educated to resist penicillin and a host of penicillin-fast organisms is bred out … In such cases the thoughtless person playing with penicillin is morally responsible for the death of the man who finally succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism. I hope this evil can be averted.”

So, what is the solution? First, we need to monitor when we take antibiotics so that we are not overusing antibiotics as a panacea for all ailments. Secondly, we need to look at applying antibiotics through needles versus pills because the gut microbiome is destroyed with pills, but not by subcutaneous means. Scientists also need to look for modern alternate solutions to antibiotics rather than too easily prescribing antibiotics to solve the problem. And finally, we need to watch what we eat so that we can avoid any unknown or known foods that carry antibiotics.

When antibiotics first came out, nobody could have imagined we'd have the resistance problem we face today. We didn't give bacteria credit for being able to change and adapt so fast.

Bonnie Bassler