Fleming warned us first

I’ve mentioned in previous posts the great danger many of us will be in in future years because all the serious diseases caused by bacteria will have become inured to all the antibiotics that have so far been developed as ‘cousins’ to the original penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. In the following extract from his speech given when he received the Nobel prize in 1944, he was fully aware of the possible dangers kin using this wonder drug.

Enough notice was taken Fleming’s warning that penicillin and its later antibiotic derivatives were never available over the counter but were only issued on prescription.  Nevertheless, they have been vastly over-prescribed — mainly due to pressure from patients — and thus underused, leaving some bacteria time to mutate resistance.

“The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops.  Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under-dose himself and, by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant.  Here is a hypothetical illustration. Mr X has a sore throat.  He buys some penicillin and gives himself, not enough to kill the streptococci but enough to educate them to resist penicillin.  He hen infects his wife.  Mrs X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicillin.  As the streptococci are now resistant to penicillin the treatment fails.  Mrs K dies. Who is primarily responsible for Mrs X’s death.”

A looming antibiotic Apocalypse

The bad news is that biologists in China have discovered one bacterium there that is now totally resistant to all known antibiotics. One or more of its mutations will now spread around the world and many existing hospital procedures will be rendered useless in due course. This is what epidemiologists have been expecting somewhere in the world sooner or later and have been trying to tell governments, training hospitals and farmers (who dose up all their animals with antibiotics) about for many years.

The good news is that those who are researching the new recently-discovered bacterial ecosystems in the soil say that there are other penicillin-type chemicals there.  The problem is that these new bacterial systems are very difficult to keep alive in the lab and thus they’re difficult to investigate in the usual way.  Even if some wonderful new antibiotics are in the soil there they’re unlikely to be elucidated quickly.

On the suggestion of my local doctor I have one powerful (that is, not often used) antibiotic at home on the strict understanding that it’s used only as a reserve if I need it in an emergency during the night and can’t get hold of a doctor.  Since the news from China it looks as though this might be useless before too long.

Doctors are nowhere near well enough trained in genetics, bacterial genetics as well as human DNA.  If they had been given more training in bacteria then they wouldn’t have prescribed the enormous amounts of antibiotics as they have done in the last 30 years.  (Bacteria don’t have sex with each other as we do when we exchange all of our DNA both ways.  They exchange small packets of genes with others with alacrity — even if they’re bacteria of a different type — almost as soon as they touch.  Thus a brand new mutation that causes resistance to the very latest antibiotic can spread around the world in months )

Don’t laugh too loudly at Homeopathy

Keith Hudson

The EU Commissioners are ‘mandating’ farmers to use herbal homeopathic methods for treating sick animals. We can reliably say that, because homeopathy requires diluting ‘remedies’ a million or a billion times, it simply does not work. Homeopathy is one of early Victorian medical treatments which parallels blood-letting and the application of leeches — in short, quite as worthless as most treatments of Medieval times (although many Medieval herbal treatments . . . Continue reading