The tragic part of this story is that it could possibly have been averted with more foresight and caring on the part of agribusiness. The overuse of antibiotics, especially in meat — 70 percent of all antibiotics are used to grow animals faster — is driving the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the United States.
Katy Hayes developed an infection with invasive group A streptococcal. Ordinarily, group A strep infections cause strep throat, impetigo and other mild illnesses that resolve relatively quickly. In rare cases, however, the infection progresses and causes necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria, to spread throughout the body.
There are up to 15,000 cases of invasive Group A strep disease in the United States each year, and 2,000 of them are fatal. Necrotizing fasciitis is less common, with 500 to 1,500 cases a year, according to the CDC, although it is often a symptom of MRSA.
Diseases caused by Group A strep should be easily treated with antibiotics, but increasingly resistance is being seen.
Antibiotic Resistance Turning Once Mild Bacteria Deadly
Antibiotic-resistant disease is a man-made problem, caused by overuse of antibiotics.
It is not merely a lack of hygiene or proper disinfection techniques that have brought these superbugs to the point of being impervious to nearly all medications we have at our disposal.
Antibiotics are not only over-prescribed in modern medicine, they are also widely over-used in agriculture — a fact that is grossly overlooked.
As I said earlier, about 70 percent of antibiotic use in the United States is for agricultural purposes. Animals are often fed antibiotics at low doses for disease prevention and growth promotion, and those antibiotics are transferred to you via meat and even manure used for fertilizer.
The agriculture industry’s practice of using antibiotics, along with the overuse of antibiotics for medicine, are driving the development of antibiotic resistance in a now wide variety of bacteria that cause human disease.
It used to be that life-threatening infections like the one Katy Hayes experienced were restricted to individuals with lowered immune defenses or who had just spent time in a hospital or health care setting. But increasingly these resistant bacteria are striking healthy people, too.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there were close to 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA infections in the United States in 2005, which lead to more than 18,600 deaths.
To put that number into perspective, HIV/AIDS killed 17,000 people that year.
The numbers are even more staggering when you include ALL hospital infections, not just MRSA, as approximately 1.7 million Americans contracted infections during hospital stays in 2007, and a subsequent 100,000 people perished from these diseases, according to the U.S. Center of Disease Control (CDC).
Fortunately, protecting yourself from the devastating effects of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is still possible, by implementing some commonsense approaches.
A Healthy Immune System is Your Best Defense
As always, eating healthy, exercising and tending to your emotional health will be your “Three Musketeers” to keeping dangerous bacteria, even super bugs, away. These are the lifestyle practices that will boost your immune system and keep you best able to fight illnesses of all kinds.
Handwashing is also an excellent preventive tool, as is choosing foods that are organic and antibiotic-free, but a strong immune system is your best defense against any pathogenic bacteria you come across, and will serve you well if you nourish it with the proper tools.
You can support your immune system by:
* Getting a good night’s sleep
* Minimizing stress in your life
* Exercising regularly and effectively
* Getting enough sun exposure in order to optimize your vitamin D levels
* Avoiding sugar and grains, and instead eating plenty of raw foods
* Taking a high-quality probiotic (good bacteria) and eating plenty of fermented foods like kefir and natto, which are natural sources of probiotics