And the failure of antibiotics
Health authorities, doctors and medical institutions have been concerned for many years about the growing resistance of bacteria and viruses to the antibiotics that we have available.
Modern antibiotics are one of the primary tools of allopathic medicine in treating disease, but viruses and bacteria are adapting and we are unable to create new antibiotics to defeat them.
As our population grows and we live packed more tightly together, the risk of disease increases and when our immune system becomes weak, we become more susceptible to the bacteria and viruses which cause disease.
In nature we have this idea of the survival of the fittest. For example the Lions in Africa will hunt down and kill the weakest animals within the species that they eat. In effect by weeding out the weakest animals, the majority within a herd remains strong. We humans are not hunted often by lions, but we are a target for viruses and bacteria which use our bodies to replicate themselves.
Most of the bacteria within our bodies are beneficial and we could not live without them, but when our body chemistry is out of balance, we become more susceptible to invasion by bacteria that may be harmful. We can unknowingly take in these bacteria through our food, other body openings or open wounds.
Similarly viruses can invade our bodies and like bacteria, they do this simply to reproduce themselves. It's not that they're out to get us, it's just they need somewhere warm and moist that also has a good food supply so that they can replicate themselves. But as viruses are smaller than bacteria, they may often be airborne and we may become infected by breathing.
When our body chemistry is out of balance we are physically and energetically weakened which makes us more susceptible to bacterial or viral infection. Even without the threat of invasion, when our body chemistry is out of balance and when we are very unfit, even our own body chemistry can turn against us and hasten our demise.
Life is finite and we all have an expiry date, but most of us would rather pass in the next world peacefully and painlessly. Some viruses and bacteria will help us to that end quite quickly, but some can make the process slow and painful. Ideally when we leave this world we should be in good health and simply ready to go.
However many of us get sick through bacterial and viral infections. When the infection is minor or we are in good health, our bodies natural defence systems kick in and destroy the infection. Most of us experience this at some point as with chickenpox. With infections like this, once we have recovered we also become immune to reinfection. Our parents knew this and country people when one child gets chickenpox, organise a chickenpox party so that every child gets it.
When we are young, our bodies are naturally fitter and healthier, the immune system strong. Therefore most infections are minor, but as we age, our immune systems often weaken due to our poor diet and lifestyle.
It could well be argued that if we kept ourselves in a state of optimal health, we would be more resistant to all infections and if we maintained ourselves at a good level of fitness, we would not suffer as much degenerative disease.
But today, new antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria and viruses are evolving and the one of major concern is MRSA. It seems strange that we go to hospital to get well and yet hospitals are the ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses.
The causes of bacterial and viral mutations
On the human scale, bacteria and viruses have a very short life cycle and they are able to evolve or adapt themselves very quickly to new environments. In some ways they are a bit like us, after we have been exposed to the chickenpox, we become immune but conversely, once the bacteria or viruses have been exposed to our modern antibiotics and they have survived, they likewise become immune to those antibiotics.
Over the past 60 years so we have evolved our antibiotics to the maximum and there is nothing new on the horizon that is able to defeat the new strains of antibiotic resistant viruses and bacteria. Some people argue that viruses and bacteria may also be driving our own evolution. For instance some people are naturally immune to the Ebola virus and there is no one virus or bacteria that is going to kill each and every one of us. Therefore those people who are immune or strong enough to resist infections will pass pass on those qualities in their genes to help ensure the survival of our species.
But the problem is much larger than just treating people because viruses and bacteria are exposed to antibiotic drugs in many places in our environment. Antibiotics have become so widely used in the raising of farm animals that entire catchment areas contain trace amounts of antibiotics like tetracycline.
In many countries the use of antibiotics is completely unregulated, but even when antibiotic use is regulated, there is still a significant amount of antibiotic that passes from the animal into the soil and waterways. Water sampling in places like the Mississippi Delta and any other major waterway will show up traces of antibiotics that have leached into the environment in such micro doses that the viruses and bacteria that they come in contact with can readily adapt to and become immune.
The widespread use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is on such a vast scale and in many countries it is still unregulated. But the use of antibiotics on farms has been going on for such a long time it could take hundreds of years before they wash out of the soils and breakdown in the oceans.
Therefore unless we can come up with new classes of antibiotics, antibiotic resistance by bacteria and viruses is only going to increase. When we compound that with the fact that throughout poor diet and lifestyle we are becoming physically weaker as a species, we are going to become increasingly susceptible to new antibiotic resistant pathogens.
Are there any solutions?
Based on our current way of living and with our current attitudes, no. As long as we continue to rely on meat as a food staple we will need to continue raising animals in conditions that are less than ideal for the animals welfare. Monoculture is the ideal breeding ground for disease and as long as we have these exceedingly large herds of animals, disease can only increase.
The answer in terms of global health is that we become vegetarian. This is not such a bad idea because on average vegetarians live longer and suffer less disease than meat eaters. In other words, vegetarians overall are more resistant to pathogens than meat eaters.
In fact it is only by terminating our dependence on meat that we can even begin to turn the tide on this pathogenic problem that we're facing. On a personal level we can take responsibility for our own lives and avoid consuming foods that undermine our health. This would mean avoiding sugar and all processed foods. It would also mean avoiding chemically grown food because our bodies are not designed to deal with the high levels of pesticides and inorganic fertilisers that are residual and most commercially produced food.
Our health is really in our own hands and the hospital and especially the antibiotics should be the last ports of call for any health emergency.