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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Antibiotics are making us sick

    Americans assume because they live in a developed country with highly effective medicine, a strong military, plentiful food and a relatively stable government, nothing could ever go horribly wrong for them, and that they are exempt from the burden of apprehensions.

    Their government will not collapse, their military will not fall, their food will not disappear and their medicine will not fail.

    But while it’s true that the people of the U.S. are ordinarily safe because of modern developments, it is their comfort and dependence on these very developments, in the form of drugs like antibiotics, that could be their undoing.

    The New England Journal of Medicine estimated in 2010 that out of every 1,000 prescriptions given to Arizonan patients, 689 to 774 are antibiotics.

    When you take an antibiotic, illness-causing bacteria are killed but so are the natural bacteria of the body. After the antibiotic runs its course, the bacteria that survive within the body are those that have grown resistant to the antibiotic, and these are able to grow and pass their resistance on to other bacteria. Once this happens, we can spread antibiotic resistant bacteria through direct and indirect contact with other people.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that drug-resistant bacteria cause 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths per year.

    Besides antibiotic pills, immune bacteria can come from the food we eat.

    Although the Food and Drug Administration set regulations in 2013 preventing farmers from feeding animals bred for human consumption antibiotics if the animal does not needs them, there is a loophole in the rules with which ranchers can claim they need antibacterial prescriptions to keep their animals from getting sick without obtaining FDA authorization, according to The New York Times.

    Also according to The New York Times, the sale of antibiotics fed to animals raised for meat has grown 16 percent from 2009 to 2012. The immunities grown within the stomachs of these animals can remain on the meat if it is not handled or cooked properly.

    Besides livestock, the CDC said, crops can also transmit drug-resistant bacteria.

    Resistant bacteria forms on produce when fertilizer or water that is used on fields contains animal feces with immune bacteria. From here, these fruits, grains and vegetables — and their bacteria — land in peoples’ mouths and travel down to their bellies where these bacteria will stay and multiply.

    The result of all these multiplications from multiple sources is that antibiotics aren’t working anymore, and that means longer and more complicated illnesses, a rise in physician visits, a need for and use of stronger, more expensive medicines and increased deaths.

    These effects are already being seen. The CDC reports that Enterobacteriaceae is already resistant to almost all known medicines and currently attributes to an estimated 140,000 total infections and 600 deaths per year. Three antibiotic classes don’t cure Acinetobacter anymore, and there are approximately 12,000 total infections and 500 deaths per year. Some Enterococci strains, which cause 66,000 total infections and 1,300 deaths per year, have no treatment options anymore due to resistance.

    Just because you’re prescribed antibiotics doesn’t mean they will do any good, despite what you may think. Realistically, antibiotics do nothing for a cold, the flu, most coughs and sore throats, excluding strep according to Medline Plus.

    Director of the Health Promotion and Preventive Services at UA Campus Health Service David Salafsky said, “The evidence points toward more judicious use of prescribed antibiotics. Clearly there is no need for antibiotics to treat viral infections such as the cold or flu, and healthy individuals can fight off many bacterial infections without the need for antibiotics. The more we can get this message out to the public, the better.”

    Antibiotics are for fighting serious bacterial infections that our bodies can’t fight alone, not for livestock plumping or crop growing and not as default prescription for patients. Besides limiting the use of antibiotic medications in food production, medical professionals also need to cut back on prescriptions.

    Our bodies can handle plenty naturally, and antibiotic pills should be used to assist the body — not to control it.

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    Ashleigh Horowitz is a creative writing freshman. Follow her on Twitter.

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