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Show 1052: The Challenge of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

With greater exposure to antibiotics, bacteria evolve into antibiotic-resistant superbugs. How can we keep these drugs effective against infection?
Paul Turner, PhD, chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University
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The Challenge of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

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Ever since penicillin was discovered, scientists have realized that bacteria could develop resistance to antibiotics. In the last decade or so, these fears have become more acute. Many dangerous pathogens have evolved to become resistant to multiple antibiotics. Some have become impervious to drugs that are generally reserved for last-resort use. With the common use of many antibiotics to promote animal growth and weight gain in agriculture, antibiotic-resistant microbes are showing up in all sorts of unexpected places, not just in hospitals. What can be done about these superbugs?

Why Is There Antibiotic Resistance?

Our guests describe the problem of antibiotic resistance and discuss what we as individuals can do to keep from contributing to the crisis. When is it safe for parents to hold off on giving antibiotics to a sick child? What else can we do to lower the footprint of antibiotics in the world? Renouncing routine use of antibiotics to speed the growth of livestock and poultry might be one important step.

A Novel Way to Overcome Superbugs:

One of our guests, Dr. Paul Turner, is working on ways to turn the millennia-old war between viruses and bacteria to our advantage. Phage therapy began early in the 20th century, before antibiotics were common. What contributions can it make now, when so many bacteria are evolving to show resistance to our powerful modern compounds?

For a fascinating demonstration of how bacteria develop antibiotic resistance to become superbugs, you may wish to watch this video.

Here’s a current story from the Los Angeles Times demonstrating how perplexing and serious the problem of superbugs can be.

This Week’s Guests:

Alan Greene, MD, is a pediatrician in private practice and founder of DrGreene.com, a premier site for pediatric information. He was the founding president of the Society for Participatory Medicine and is the author of Feeding Baby Green, Raising Baby Green and From First Kicks to First Steps. Dr. Greene consults with a number of online and pediatric companies, including Scanadu, Plum Organics, PanTheryx and Lighting Science. In 2010 he founded the WhiteOut Movement and in 2012 he founded TICC TOCC.

Barbara Murray, MD, is director of the Center for Emerging and Re-Emerging Pathogens and Division Director of Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School in Houston. She is the J. Ralph Meadows Professor of Medicine there and past president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Paul Turner, PhD, is a professor and the chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. His lab website is http://turnerlab.yale.edu/  Dr. Turner is also a member of the microbiology faculty at the Yale School of Medicine. He is an associate editor of the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. The photograph is of Paul Turner.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I also just finished taking Azithromycin for an infected tooth. Despite my concerns about resistant bacteria, I finished the full dose today.

And the reason for my concerns over resistance has to do with how it destroyed my mother. Eighteen years ago, my mother ended up dehydrated and in the hospital due to having a case of bad colitis. At that point in time, her doctor did not know what was causing the colitis, but still chose to prescribe an aggressive antibiotic regimen of two strong antibiotics, Flagyl and Vancomycin.

However, prior to my mother taking these two drugs, my brother, who is a pharmacist, vehemently opposed her taking these two antiobiotics at the same time. He recommended that the doctor prescribe only one of these drugs so that he could see if just one of them would work by itself. However, my mother was old school and didn’t believe that antibiotics could develop resistance, (obviously the doctor didn’t believe it either), and so she followed her doctor’s recommendation and took both drugs at the same time. These two drugs temporarily imprvoved my mother’a colitis, but shortly thereafter, it acted up again, and her same doctor prescribed Flagyl and Vancomyacin once again.

Eventually, my mother was diagnosed with pseudomembranous colitis which is caused by an overgrowth of the C. diff bacterium, which is caused by the over- prescription of antibiotics.

Sadly, over the next two years, my mother suffered greatly. She would have up to 40 bowel movements of diarrhea per day even though she often went several days. Prior to my mother’s death, her colitis had become so bad that her doctor told her that she would have to stay on Flagyl and Vancomycin for the rest of her life.

Empirical and easily reproducible study of wound healing by Dr. Knutson (SMJ) with over 1800 consecutive successes in patients who had failed standard therapies argues for using sucrose in an oil paste mixture for wound infections with rare exceptions. UC – Davis Entomology observations give a hint to the mechanism of sucrose’s toxicity to cell membranes of bacteria and devitalized tissues when dessicated by anything including the sugar poltice. Cells supported by circulation appear unaffected while debridement of wounds and resolution of inflammation occurs without much further intervention. More study of Prolotherapy should demonstrate positive effects of sucrose on connective tissue without infection. Study of cutaneous anthrax, mycobacteria and acne should be started now.

Arsenic and antibiotics put in animal feed for non-infected animals can not be justified – the people who do this should be regulated and held up for contempt.

What was the name of the process by which bacteria transfer data to those near them?

Natural medicine and nutritious foods are the best for our health. American Medicine is detrimental to our health.

I was given Ciprofloxasin as a drug of first resort on 11 June 2016. This was after gall bladder removal, and I have been in constant pain since 14 June 2016 with very slow reduction in pain, mostly knees and legs. Now is 30 Sept. Have encountered absolute ignorance from the medical community.

What happened to UV radiation to kill superbugs? I doubt superbugs can become resistant to UV light.

Don’t be part of the problem! I unwittingly contributed to antibiotic resistance recently when I needed to take amoxicillin for an infected tooth. I am very wary of taking antibiotics-I know how they can really mess up your body’s ecosystem- so I only took enough until I felt better then slacked off. After a few days on a lower dose, my tooth pain came back with a vengeance. I was forced to start a second, stronger antibiotic. The bacteria causing the tooth infection had developed resistance to the first antibiotic (amoxicillin). I am pretty sure that if I had taken the full amoxicillin dose, I wouldn’t have needed the second one :( I knew that this could happen, but I needed to experience it first hand. Lesson learned.

To help me through the antibiotics, I made sure that I took probiotics approximately 2 hours after each antibiotic. I still ended up with stomach upset issues and mild diarrhea, which I am still recovering from. My tooth, however, is no longer infected and I am undergoing a root canal. I hope to never need antibiotics again!

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