Too little too late: Why are we losing the fight against infections?
Colistin is an antibiotic which is used as a last resort to fight bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. Recently (May 2016) a woman in Pennsylvania was found to have a urinary tract infection caused by a bacteria (E.Coli) that was resistant to Colistin. This news made headlines and provided insight into the growing threat of resistant infections. According to Center for Disease Control, 2 million people get infected with multidrug resistant bacteria and 23,000 people die every year from these infections.The purpose of this blog is to understand why are antibiotics losing their efficacy as well as to identify what can we do to prevent multidrug resistant infections.
Empiric Use of antibiotics
Antibiotics were designed to treat infections that were caused by bacteria and could lead to life threatening complications. Bacterial, viral and fungal infections can cause similar symptoms and signs. Even if an infection is caused by a bacteria, it is not a guarantee that it will respond to a specific antibiotic. It is for this reason that every patient who presents with infection needs to be evaluated for the cause of the infection as well as an assessment of what antibiotic is the bacteria sensitive to before initiating an antibiotic. Unfortunately many healthcare providers do not assess the cause of infection prior to initiating an antibiotic. According to Center for Disease Control, 50% antibiotics prescribed are either not needed or not optimally effective as prescribed. This is one of the most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics are a double edged sword
Most of us are not aware of the side effects that are associated with antibiotics. Antibiotics can predispose us to other infections such as fungal infections and infections from other bacterias such as Clostridium Difficile. One important reason for this is that they destroy all the good bacteria in our body. These bacteria help us fight fungal infections and other bacterial infections. It is extremely important that we replace our good bacteria when we are taking antibiotics.
Antibiotics also cause of drug allergies, serious interactions with other drugs and have serious side effects such as liver or kidney damage, tendon rupture and hearing loss. Most individuals are not aware of potential side effects of antibiotics or drug interactions and are more likely to be affected adversely.
Antibiotic Use in animals
Almost 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States are used in meat and poultry production to promote growth and prevent disease. Excessive use of antibiotics in animals is another cause of producing drug resistance in bacteria in these animals that are then transferred to humans. It is for this reason that there has been a strong effort by multiple agencies including World Health Organization to phase out the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.
Immunity Assessment for Recurrent infections
Individuals who get recurrent infections or chronic infections such as recurrent sinusitis are often prescribed multiple rounds of antibiotics without an assessment of the root cause of the problem. In addition to finding out what bacteria, virus or fungus is causing the infection, it is important to find out what is causing the weakened immune system. We are surrounded by bacterias but our immune system has the ability to prevent these bacterias from attacking us and causing infections. Recurrent infections indicate a breakdown of immunity and simply giving multiple antibiotics is not a solution.
Identification of alternative strategies
A common myth is that the only solution to a infection is an antibiotic that kills the bacteria. This misconception leads to patients requesting an antibiotic script from their doctors. It is important to understand that there are 3 different ways to deal with bacterias causing infections. The first and more effective method is to strengthen and stimulate the immune system so the system itself kills the organism. The second is to aggressively decrease the inflammation which is the cause of the symptoms which significantly helps the body in dealing with the infection. The third is killing of the bacteria. Interestingly, there are a number of botanicals that research has shown to be effective in infections and they use all three mechanisms. In addition, these botanicals can also be used in conjunction with antibiotics to prevent and treat infections.
Prevention is better than cure
I have often heard doctors, nurses and patients often use the term ‘Usual or common infection’. I do not consider presence of an infection to be usual or normal. Any infection is a breach of our immune system. Most of us with a good immune system can fight them without requiring antibiotics with some support from botanicals and nutrients.
Individuals who have a suppressed immune system such as patients on steroids or active cancer then antibiotics will be needed. If we need antibiotics, then we need evaluation regarding the cause of infection as well as whether the prescribed antibiotic targets the specific infection causing bacteria. This will prevent deaths and multi-drug resistant infections.
For more information about Integrative Program for Chronic or recurrent Infections, click here