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Story at-a-glance -

  • Mcr-1 is a gene mutation that makes bacteria resistant to our last resort class of antibiotics. The rate of transfer of resistance between bacteria is exceptionally high, making it a formidable threat to human health
  • Less than a year after the mcr-1 gene was discovered in pigs and people in China, it has now been identified in a pork sample and a patient being treated for E.coli in the U.S.
  • According to the most thorough review of the drug resistance problem to date, drastic measures are needed, including improved sanitation and the elimination of unnecessary antibiotics in farming and human medicine
 

Worst Fears Coming True as Drug Resistance Gene Confirmed in the U.S.

June 14, 2016 | 305,594 views
| Available in EspañolDisponible en Español

By Dr. Mercola

Three years ago, Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told PBS FRONTLINE:1

"For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and magazine articles that asked 'The end of antibiotics?' Well, now I would say you can change the title to 'The end of antibiotics, period.'"

Indeed, experts have issued increasingly stern warnings about rising antibiotic resistance for many years now, yet government authorities have been remarkably slow to act.

Despite Srinivasan's declaration, the CDC still downplays the hazards of antibiotic resistance while the White House diverts billions of dollars toward combating false flag "emerging threats" like the Zika virus, the public health ramifications of which pale in comparison to the harm caused by drug resistant bacteria.

Why? Could it be because the drug industry benefits from continued use of antibiotics, just as it benefits from the Zika scaremongering? What can be said for sure is that these misplaced priorities do not serve the public's best interest.

CDC Downplays Emergence of Super-Virulent Drug-Resistant Bacteria

According to Dr. Beth Bell, director of the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, the recently discovered emergence of E.coli carrying the drug resistant mcr-1 gene is no major cause for worry.

"The risk to the public at this point is pretty much minimal," Bell told The Washington Post,2 noting the "best" way to protect yourself against drug-resistant bacteria is to thoroughly cook your food and be diligent about washing your hands.

Alas, that's hardly an ideal long-term solution in the overall scheme of things. For starters, food producers really need to get serious about, or be forced to stop using antibiotics in food production, and that goes for both livestock and seafood.

In Chile, an appeals court recently ordered government fisheries to disclose their use of antibiotics in salmon production.3

The claim was filed by the environmental group Oceana after 37 salmon producers refused to reveal the amount of antibiotics used in 2014, on the grounds that doing so might put them at a competitive and commercial disadvantage.

Mcr-1 Gene Provides Vehicle for Widespread Pan Drug Resistance

What's so special about E.coli carrying the mcr-1 gene, you might ask? This gene was discovered in pigs and people in China just last year.4,5,6 It's a mutated gene that confers resistance to the drug colistin — an antibiotic of last resort due to its potency and nasty side effects — and it does so very quickly.

The shareable DNA also contains seven other genes that confer resistance against other antibiotics. Moreover, the rate of DNA transfer between different types of bacteria is also exceptionally high with mcr-1, making it a truly superb threat.

According to the researchers, these facts "suggest the progression from extensive drug resistance to pan drug resistance7 [i.e. bacteria resistant to all treatment] is inevitable," and that it's extremely likely the mcr-1 gene will spread to bacteria worldwide.8

The team, which described their findings9 as "alarming," called for "urgent restrictions" on the use of polymyxins, including colistin, which is widely used in livestock farming despite being a drug of last resort against a host of bacterial infections common in humans.

It didn't take long — less than one year — and this strain that everyone fears has now been identified in a U.S. slaughterhouse sample (pork) and an American patient admitted with an E.coli infection.10,11,12 As noted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC):13

"Both discoveries underscore why curbing antibiotic use in livestock production is critical to keeping our life-saving antibiotics, like colistin, working when we need them."

Superbug May Spread Via Contaminated Food

It's still unclear how the patient contracted the superbug, but previous cases have been linked to consumption of contaminated meat imported from affected countries, especially China, but also Germany.

The gene was also detected in the blood of a Danish patient in late 2015, and mcr-1 was also found in five poultry samples purchased in Denmark that were imported from Germany between 2012 and 2014.14

Country-of-origin labels on imported meats could go a long way toward helping people avoid these kinds of risks, but the World Trade Organization (WTO) put the kibosh on such labeling in 2014, when it ruled the United States' country-of-origin labels — implemented in 2013 — "unfairly discriminate" against meat imports.15

So now we have this curious situation where you can pick up a kid's toy and find a "Made in China" or "Made in the U.S.A." sticker but you cannot know where your meat was raised because that would be "discriminatory."

Contaminated Manure Also Spreads Potentially Hazardous Bacteria Into Food Supply

For over a decade we've also known antibiotic-resistant bacteria are present in agricultural soils, typically deposited there via contaminated manure and/or so-called biosolids (toxic sewage waste),16 and this is yet another route into the food system.

(Sadly, organic gardeners may also inadvertently contaminate their home garden by applying potting soil with biosolids.)  

Researchers at the University of Southampton are trying to understand the situation better and will be studying "how antimicrobial resistance is introduced into natural soil bacteria, for example from manures applied by farmers or exposure to domesticated or wild animal and bird fecal droppings, and how this transfer takes place in different soil types."17

A 2015 report from China also highlights the "breathtaking extent" of China's soil pollution crisis.18 The report, written by Li Xianfeng, won the 2016 China Environmental Press Awards "Most Influential Report" prize.

In it, he writes about how, over the course of a decade, a pig farmer in the village of Jingjiang buried 14,000 tons of chemical waste from a fertilizer manufacturer beneath his farm, which is situated right near a river.

According to the article, the villagers aren't too concerned about the presence of a secret toxic waste dump in their midst because "their water comes from a treated supply, and while many have fields to the south of the pig farm, the villagers know not to eat anything grown there — those crops get sold onwards."

And that's part of the problem when you have no idea where your food comes from. Farmers may raise their crops and livestock under all sorts of horrid and toxic conditions and then simply sell the food they'd never consider eating themselves to others.

New Report Calls for Drastic and Immediate Measures

According to the largest, most thorough review of the drug resistance problem to date, by 2050 antibiotic-resistant disease will claim the lives of 10 million people around the world each year. As noted by The Atlantic:19

"The report's language is sober but its numbers are apocalyptic. If antibiotics continue to lose their sting, resistant infections will sap $100 trillion from the world economy between now and 2050, equivalent to $10,000 for every person alive today ... [R]oughly one [person will die] every three seconds, and more than currently die from cancer.

These are conservative estimates: they don't account for procedures that are only safe or possible because of antibiotics, like hip and joint replacements, gut surgeries, C-sections, cancer chemotherapy, and organ transplants.

And yet, resistance is not futile. O'Neill's report includes 10 steps to avert the crisis ... seven of his recommendations focus on reducing the wanton and wasteful use of our existing arsenal. It's inevitable that microbes will evolve resistance, but we can delay that process by using drugs more sparingly."

Among those 10 action steps are:

Improve sanitation: Developed countries need to focus on reducing hospital-acquired infections, while poor nations need to improve general living conditions with access to clean water and better sanitation and waste management. According to the report, economic development is critical, as improved sanitation alone could eliminate the need for 300 million courses of antibiotics given to treat diarrhea each year.

Implement a global surveillance network to better understand how and where antibiotics are being used, and how resistant microbes are spreading and affecting various drugs.

Eliminate unnecessary use of antibiotics in farming, where drugs are used not just to treat disease, but also to promote growth and compensate for poor farming practices. The report also calls for a ban on agricultural use of antibiotics needed as a last-line defense in human medicine.

To encourage this process, the report suggests meats should be clearly labeled to help consumers make informed choices about whether they want to buy meats raised with antibiotics.

Eliminate unnecessary use of antibiotics in human medicine. In the U.S. only about one-quarter of all prescriptions for antibiotics are actually medically necessary and/or appropriate. The vast majority of people who get them have viral infections that do not respond to antibiotics. Part of the plan would be to improve diagnostic tests to identify bacterial infections and the most appropriate antibiotics to treat them.

Why Silver Should Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

Interestingly, an ancient treatment popularized by alternative medicine may be part of the drug resistance solution. The antimicrobial properties of silver have been known since 400 B.C., and silver was commonly used as an antimicrobial agent in wound management until the early 20th century. Its usage only diminished once antibiotics were introduced in the 1940s.

Modern science has not only confirmed silver's antimicrobial effects,20,21,22,23,24 researchers have also discovered it makes antibiotic drugs 1,000 times more effective and may even allow an antibiotic to successfully combat otherwise antibiotic-resistant bacteria.25,26

By adding a small amount of silver to the antibiotic, a powerful synergism occurred, and a urinary tract infection caused by tetracycline-resistant E. coli was successfully eradicated. Silver also helped save the lives of 90 percent of mice suffering with a life-threatening abdominal inflammation by adding it to the antibiotic vancomycin. In the group receiving vanomycin only, a mere 10 percent survived.

Tests such as these reveal that silver destabilizes the structure of bacterial cell membranes, making it more porous, which allows the silver (and the antibiotic if used in combination) to enter the bacterial cell and kill it. In another recent trial, a single oral dose of silver nanoparticles given to infant mice colonized with Vibrio cholerae (which causes cholera) reduced bacterial colonization 75-fold.27

Silver-containing Hydrofiber dressing has also been shown to offer effective protection against proliferation of a broad range of aerobic, anaerobic and antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in wounds.28 Silver nanoparticles incorporated into a thermosensitive gel has also been tested and found to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus.29

A 2010 study found colloidal silver effectively killed drug resistant staph, E.coli, Salmonella, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa,30 the latter of which typically occurs in hospitals and in people with weakened immune systems.31 Researchers have even found that using silver nanoparticles in food packaging can help prevent proliferation of foodborne pathogens such as listeria.32,33

Considering the evidence, it seems reasonable to conclude that keeping a bottle of high-quality silver in your medicine cabinet would be a prudent strategy, and to use it any time you get a cut, scrape or other topical wound. Many don't realize this but many of the drug resistant infections that end up taking a heavy toll start out as simple cuts and scrapes.

A Note on Quality

Some shun colloidal silver for fear of toxicity. It's a valid concern, as misrepresentation of colloidal silver by less scrupulous manufacturers has in the past led to some adverse consequences. However, a 2013 study34 found that the dose of silver required to kill bacteria is far smaller than the dose needed to harm either mice or cultured human cells, suggesting oral silver should be quite safe, provided you're using a quality product.

According to a Commercial Product Report35 by Silver-Colloids.com, a site that provides detailed laboratory analyses of colloidal silver products, there are three distinctly different types of silver products on the market that are all labeled and sold as "colloidal" silver:

  • True colloidal silver
  • Ionic silver
  • Silver protein: due to the high concentration of large silver particles, silver protein products are known to cause argyria, which turns your skin a blue-gray color. Silver protein should NOT be used

True colloidal silver & ionic silver are the most recommended. In the study cited above, they used ionic silver (Ag) in a silver nitrate salt (AgNO3), which, again, was found to be quite non-toxic in animals and human cell cultures. Substantial antimicrobial activity was found at 30 microns (μM) against E. coli.

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