The enemy from within: You push me… I push you

Once upon a time, a rather reserved man went for a walk in the park every day. Every day, he went there and enjoyed the peace and serenity of the place, which made him happy.

Then one day, a stranger attacked him for no reason.

Because of this, our hero began boxing classes to defend himself.

He took a lot of punches, but he got stronger and more aggressive. Thus, he built up an impulsive and demanding temperament.

So, he began teaching other walkers these defense techniques during his walks in the park, except these were completely different.

After some time, all the other walkers had become stronger and more hostile. Finally, driven by their new powers (and their inherent evil instincts), they ransacked the benches, the garbage cans, and all the pretty park’s infrastructure.

The place was destroyed. When they finished, some decided to decimate the whole city.

Does this story mean nothing to you?

And yet it has been playing regularly worldwide for over 50 years!!!

The walker is your intestinal bacterial flora. The abuser is a misused antibiotic. The other people are dangerous bacteria.

The pretty park is your digestive tract (it’s poetic, isn’t it?). The city is your entire organism.

The destruction of the park (and of the city) is what happens when you’re misusing antibiotics: it is the consequence of antimicrobial resistance.

So now, does this story mean more to you?

Do you remember ever having a stomach ache, diarrhea, or intestinal upset during a course of antibiotics? Now you know why this happens: your harmless microbiome is under attack!

Let’s take this a step further and look to the future together.

In the story, the peaceful walker becomes aggressive. Essentially, he acquires skills (he learns to defend himself against his attacker). And in a “surge of generosity,” he teaches those skills to others.

At the bacterial level, this is precisely what happens: the “good” bacteria, when being attacked by antibiotics, acquire “resistance.” Next, they transmit this information to “bad” pathogenic bacteria.

These harmful bacteria, which have become insensitive to antibiotics, can damage your body!

Hence this question:

Does a simple, utterly mild cold (and which heals on its own in a few days) justify the use of antibiotics that will cause much more severe infections in the long term? You can agree with me that the answer is no.

Here’s why:

A European study estimated the incidence of infections associated with 16 antibiotic-resistant bacteria using data from the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network.

Based on a model predicting the consequences of infection, this study estimated 671,689 conditions in 2015 were due to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Also, these afflictions caused 33,110 deaths attributable to bacterial infection (The Lancet Infectious diseases in 2018 by Cassini et al.).

In 2015, WHO warned about the increasing numbers of antibiotic resistance worldwide, requesting a report on the current situation and future projections. What emerges from this document is exceptionally instructive and should make you think differently:

By 2050, infectious diseases will be the leading cause of death in industrialized countries.

The report states that in the absence of policies to halt the worrying expansion of AMR (antimicrobial resistance), the already prominent figure of 700,000 deaths per year could rise to a highly worrying number of 10 million per year. That’s more than the number of deaths currently caused by cancer (Lord Jim O’Neil-2015).

As I told you, our overuse of antibiotics is worrying in more than one way, and we need to act.

But what about the antibiotics that you eat without knowing it? Have you ever thought about this issue?

You may regularly consume antimicrobials without your knowledge. Here’s the reason:

The agricultural world deals with infections within herds of cattle. Many times, antibiotics are used abusively to treat these pathologies.

One of the “O’Neil report” solutions is to control the agricultural policies of certain countries better. The key would be to trace the origin of certain ingredients and grant labels.

As you can imagine, that is challenging in the age of globalization.

It’s a race against time that we must win. To do this, we need a global awareness and rules that can ensure a drop in antimicrobial resistance.

The WHO has established a list of rules at different levels (individual, health professionals, politics, etc.) so that everyone can act on their own. There are no small gestures if billions of us are doing them.

Here are the primary points to consider:

  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
  • Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them.
  • Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
  • Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
  • Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food:
    • Keep clean.
    • Separate raw and cooked.
    • Cook thoroughly.
    • Keep food at safe temperatures.
    • Use clean water and raw materials.
  • Choose foods that have been produced without antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.

If you want to deepen your knowledge on the subject, use the following link: https://www.who.int/fr/newsroom/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance

For a better tomorrow for yourself, your loved ones, and your planet, all while preserving the Earth’s fragile balance, one concept sums it up very well:

One world, One Health.

This slogan points to the importance of good health for the whole planet and its occupants, reminding us of the subtle interconnections that govern life on earth.

To meditate:

PS1: Antibiotics have enabled humanity to make great strides in solving the thorny problem of bacterial infections. We’re not trying to argue against their use in cases where they are necessary. This article raises awareness against using antibiotics abusively, which is counterproductive in the long term.

PS2: Did you know that penicillin, the first antibiotic, was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming … by accident. After returning from vacation, a staphylococcus culture plate developed mold.

From Chaos springs light.

Penicillium Notatum is produced by mold to fight bacteria. This discovery awarded Fleming the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945.

To finish and to simplify as much as possible, here are the three ideas to remember:

  • # Success Sentence 1: Antibiotics are not automatic (French campaign’s slogan against antibiotic resistance).
  • # Success Sentence 2: One World, One Health.
  • # Success Sentence 3: There are no small gestures if billions of us do them.

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