Slaying the Deadly Superbugs

by
Joseph Mercola

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The frivolous
use of antibiotics, not just in medicine but also in food production,
is the root cause of skyrocketing antibiotic resistance.

Data from
the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control1
(ECDC) shows a significant rise of resistance to multiple antibiotics
in Klebsiella pneumoniae and E. coli in just
the last four years alone, affecting more than one-third of
the EU, and the primary cause for this man-made epidemic is
the widespread misuse of antibiotics.

Between
the years of 1993 and 2005, the number of Americans hospitalized
due to the antibiotic-resistant “superbug” MRSA
(methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) skyrocketed
from about 2,000 to 370,000.

Currently,
MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant infections kill about 60,000
Americans annually, and account for billions of dollars in health
care costs.2
Antibiotic-resistant disease is not the only danger associated
with the misuse of these drugs. Excessive exposure to antibiotics
also takes a heavy toll on your gastrointestinal health, which
can predispose you to virtually any disease.

Abnormal
gut flora may actually be a major contributing factor to the
rise in a wide variety of childhood diseases and ailments, from
bowel disorders and allergies
to autism.

Agricultural
uses of antibiotics account for about 80 percent of all
antibiotic use
in the US,3
so it’s a MAJOR source of human antibiotic consumption. Animals
are often fed antibiotics at low doses for disease prevention and
growth promotion, and those antibiotics are transferred to you via
meat, and even via the manure used as crop fertilizer.

Protecting
your gut health and reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant
bacteria are significant reasons for making sure you’re only eating
grass-fed, organically-raised meats and animal products.

Gut Viruses
Confer Antibiotic-Resistance to Bacteria, New Research Shows

When used
properly, in the correct contexts and with responsibility, antibiotics
can and do save lives that are threatened by bacterial infections.
But there is one important variable that wasn’t considered when
the widespread use of these “miracle medicines” began, and that
is that bacteria are highly adaptable.

They are
clearly capable of outsmarting antibiotics, and they are doing
so with a vengeance. According to the CDC’s National Antimicrobial
Resistance Monitoring System:4

“Antibiotics
kill or inhibit the growth of susceptible bacteria. Sometimes
one of the bacteria survives because it has the ability to neutralize
or evade the effect of the antibiotic; that one bacteria can
then multiply and replace all the bacteria that were killed
off.

Exposure
to antibiotics therefore provides selective pressure, which
makes the surviving bacteria more likely to be resistant. In
addition, bacteria that were at one time susceptible to an antibiotic
can acquire resistance through mutation of their genetic material
or by acquiring pieces of DNA that code for the resistance properties
from other bacteria.

The DNA
that codes for resistance can be grouped in a single easily transferable
package. This means that bacteria can become resistant to many antimicrobial
agents because of the transfer of one piece of DNA.”

Interestingly,
these bacteria have previously unknown allies that supply them with
the antibiotic-resistant genes necessary for their survival. Researchers
at the Wyss Institute have discovered that gut viruses known as
bacteriophages, a.k.a. “phages” are actually instrumental
in conferring antibacterial resistance to bacteria.5,
6
Most importantly:

“[Phage]
deliver genes that help the bacteria to survive not just the
antibiotic they’ve been exposed to, but other types of antibiotics
as well…

That suggests that phages in the gut may be partly responsible
for the emergence of dangerous superbugs that withstand multiple
antibiotics, and that drug targeting of phages could offer a
potential new path to mitigate development of antibiotic resistance,”
the Institute’s press release7
states.

Phages
Are Actually an Important Part of Your Body’s Defense
System

More than
90 percent of the DNA in your body is not yours, but actually belongs
to a wide variety of microbes, and these findings just go to show
how intricately tied your health is to the microorganisms that live
inside you. And, while the word “virus” brings to mind
all things “bad” for you, this is not necessarily true.

Another recent study published in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences8

found that many of these viruses (phages) actually serve as immune
helpers
– not enemies – and form an important part
of your body’s defense system.9

Wherever bacteria
reside, you will also find phages, because phages depend on bacteria
for their survival. Phages specialize in breaking open and killing
certain kinds of bacteria, hijacking them in order to replicate.

Most phages have hollow heads, which store their DNA and RNA, and
tunnel tails designed for binding to the surface of their bacterial
targets. According to phages.org, once a phage has attached itself
to a bacterium:

“The
viral DNA is then injected through the tail into the host cell,
where it directs the production of progeny phages, often over
a hundred in half an hour. These ‘young’ phages burst from the
host cell (killing it) and infect more bacteria.”

The researchers
found evidence that these phages partner with animals and humans
to stave off bacterial infections and control the composition
of friendly
microbes
in your body. The researchers speculate that some
phages might protect bacteria that benefit their hosts (i.e.
you), while destroying those that cause harm.

Which
brings us back to the featured research, which suggests that
these phages may also play a significant role in the rapid rise
of antibiotic resistance… In essence, it would appear our
zealous overuse of antibiotic drugs is causing these helpful
viruses to boost the survivability of bacteria during the onslaught
of a deadly foe – the antibiotic – only in this case,
the end result is disastrous rather than helpful for the host…
On the upside, these findings may confer new hope for effective
treatments. According to Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., Founding Director
of the Wyss Institute:10

“Antibiotic
resistance is as pressing a global health problem as they come,
and to fight it, it’s critical to understand it. [These] novel findings
offer a previously unknown way to approach this problem – by
targeting the phage that live in our intestine, rather than the
pathogens themselves.”

Colloidal
Silver Dramatically Boosts Effectiveness of Antibiotics

The use
of silver in the battle against pathogenic bacteria goes way
back into antiquity. Hippocrates was one of the first to describe
its antimicrobial properties in 400 B.C. Over the past few years,
several studies
have demonstrated the fact that silver
is indeed one of the most effective agents in the battle against
antibiotic-resistant super pathogens. Yet conventional medicine
has largely dismissed such claims, relegating colloidal silver
to the “woo-woo” section of medical myth.

They may
be inclined to change their tune however, in light of the latest
research11,
12
which shows
that low doses of silver can make antibiotics up to 1,000 times
more effective, and may even allow an antibiotic to successfully
combat otherwise antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As reported
by Medical News Today:13

“…[N]ot
only did silver boost the ability of a broad range of commonly used
antibiotics so as to stop mice dying of otherwise lethal infections,
but it made at least one resistant bacterium succumb to antibiotics
again. The addition of silver also broadened the effect of vancomycin,
an antibiotic that is usually only effective at killing Gram-positive
bacteria like Staph and Strep; aided by silver it killed Gram-negative
bacteria such as those that cause food poisoning and dangerous hospital-acquired
infections.”

For example,
by adding a small amount of silver to the antibiotic, a powerful
synergism occurred, and a urinary tract infection caused by tetracycline-resistant
E. coli was successfully eradicated. Silver also helped save the
lives of 90 percent of mice suffering with a life-threatening abdominal
inflammation by adding it to the antibiotic vanomycin. In the group
receiving vanomycin only, a mere 10 percent survived. The researchers
discovered two mechanisms that help explain how silver can boost
the effectiveness of an antibiotic:

  • Silver
    interferes with the bacteria’s metabolism, increasing
    production of reactive oxygen species14
    (ROS); products of normal oxygen consuming metabolic processes
    in your body that, in excess, can damage cell membranes and
    DNA. Many antibiotics are believed to kill bacteria by producing
    ROS compounds, and here, the researchers found that adding
    a small amount of silver boosted the antibiotic’s ability
    to kill anywhere from 10 and 1,000 times more bacteria
  • Silver
    makes the bacteria’s cell membrane more permeable. This
    may explain the beneficial effect of silver on gram-negative
    bacteria, the cells of which are often impenetrable to antibiotics
    due to the molecular size of the drugs

What About
Potential Toxicity of Colloidal Silver?

As for
toxicity, the researchers found that the doses of silver required
were far smaller than the dose needed to harm either mice or
cultured human cells, suggesting that oral and injectable silver
should be quite safe. That said, quality is extremely important,
as misrepresentation of colloidal
silver
by less scrupulous manufacturers has in the past
led to some of its more negative connotations. According to
a Commercial Product Report15
by silver-colloids.com, a site that provides detailed laboratory
analyses of colloidal silver products, there are three distinctly
different types of silver products on the market that are all
labeled and sold as “colloidal” silver:

  • True colloidal
    silver
  • Ionic silver
  • Silver protein:
    Due to the high concentration of large silver particles, silver
    protein products are known to cause argyria,
    which turns your skin blue-gray color.

When purchasing
colloidal silver, it’s very important to avoid silver
protein formulas. True colloidal silver seems to be the most
recommended, but ionic silver could probably also be used. In
the featured study, they used ionic silver (Ag) in a silver
nitrate salt (AgNO3), which, again, was found to be quite non-toxic
in animals and human cell cultures. Substantial antimicrobial
activity was found at 30 microns (μM) against E. coli.
If you take ionic silver products according to the manufacturer’s
recommended dosage, ionic silver will not cause argyria. That
said, since there are potential health risks involved if you
select the wrong formula, I recommend you use colloidal
silver
only under the guidance and supervision of a qualified
alternative health practitioner who can help you select a high-quality
product.

Statin
Users Beware… Your Cholesterol Medication May Not Mix Well
with Antibiotics!

In related
news, Canadian researchers16
warn that patients – especially the elderly – taking
cholesterol-lowering drugs
such as Lipitor, should avoid the antibiotics clarithromycin
and erythromycin, as these antibiotics inhibit the metabolism
of statins. Increased
drug concentrations in your body may cause muscle or kidney
damage, and even death. As reported by WebMD:17

“‘These
drugs do interact and cause difficulties for patients,’ said
lead researcher Dr. Amit Garg, a professor in the department
of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Western
Ontario in London, Ontario.
 These adverse reactions
are rare, Garg added. ‘Most people will be fine,’ he said. ‘But
at a population level, hundreds of preventable hospitalizations
are occurring.’ For someone taking a statin, the study suggests
that substituting a different antibiotic – azithromycin
– is safer because it doesn’t interfere with the metabolism
of statins. Another strategy is to stop the statin until the
antibiotic course is finished, Garg said.”

What You Can
Do to Help Stop the Spread of Antibiotic-Resistant Disease

You can
help yourself and your community by using antibiotics only
when absolutely necessary
and by purchasing organic, antibiotic-free
meats and other foods. Even though the problem of antibiotic
resistance needs to be stemmed through public policy on a nationwide
level, the more people who get involved on a personal level
to stop unnecessary antibiotic use the better.

Remember,
not every bacterial infection needs to be treated with a drug.
First, as an all-around preventive measure, you’ll want
to make sure your vitamin
D
level is optimized year-round, especially during pregnancy,
along with vitamin
K2
. But there are also a number of natural compounds that
can help boost your immune system function to help rid you of
an infection, including:

  • Oregano
    (oil of oregano)
  • Garlic
  • Echinacea
  • Manuka
    honey (for topical application)

Last but
not least, the use of silver compounds appears to bring new
hope against antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Still, creating
more potent antibiotics, regardless of how that’s achieved,
will not help us in the long run unless we also address the
root causes of antibiotic resistance, which is rampant overuse
– in medicine, but perhaps even more importantly, in agriculture.

If you
live in the United States and want to get involved on a national
level, Food Democracy Now! has created a petition
against the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production.18
If you care about this issue, I suggest you use this petition
to make your voice heard.

Sources
and References

July
5, 2013

Copyright ©
2013 Dr. Joseph Mercola

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Best of Joseph Mercola


Republished with permission from: Lew Rockwell