Antibiotics: No longer the wonder drug

February 26, 2012

Health, Health Concerns

According to research published in the January 2010 issue of Microbiology, using antibacterial disinfectants could cause the bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics, as well as the disinfectant itself.

by Joe Glenn —

Once a powerful tool to combat life-threatening infections, antibiotics are now failing us at record rates as the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria seems to grow daily. Superbugs like MRSA and C. difficile are the leading cause of illnesses like diarrhea in hospitals, daycare centers and nursing homes. What is worse, these superbugs spread easily from one patient or resident to another.

In October 2007, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 94,360 American patients developed invasive infections from MRSA in 2005, with nearly one in five of them dying.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Web site, a major factor in the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Most illnesses are caused by one of two kinds of germs: bacteria or viruses. Antibiotics have been useful against infections caused by bacteria, such as strep throat, but they do not work against viruses like the common cold, flu and the majority of sore throats.

“This overuse threatens the effectiveness of these precious drugs,” says Dr. Cindy Friedman, medical director of CDC’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program. “Doctors and patients are both part of the problem. Studies show that if a doctor believes a patient wants an antibiotic, he or she is much more likely to prescribe one, even if the patient does not really need one,” Friedman explains.

According to research published in the January 2010 issue of Microbiology, using antibacterial disinfectants could cause the bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics, as well as the disinfectant itself. reports that researchers from the National University of Ireland in Galway found that by adding increasing amounts of disinfectant to laboratory cultures of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (a common bacterium that causes disease in humans and animals), the bacteria could adapt and survive not only the disinfectant but also ciprofloxacin — a frequently prescribed antibiotic — without even being exposed to the antibiotic.

As recently as April 2010, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Donald Kennedy supported proposed legislation banning the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in animals used for food in a Sunday New York Times editorial, titled “Cows on Drugs.”

Also calling for a ban on the overuse of antibiotics is Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee. On his Web site, Markey issued a statement encouraging a ban on many applications of triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical found in most consumer soaps and other products, ranging from toys to lipstick.

“There is clear evidence that many consumer products that contain it are no more effective than those that do not. However, triclosan continues to be used in products that saturate the marketplace. Consumers — especially parents — need to know that many of these products are not only ineffective, they may also be dangerous,” Markey writes. “I call upon the federal government to ban the use of triclosan in consumer soaps and hand-washes, products intended for use by children and products intended to come into contact with food.”

In December 2009, CBS News reported: “Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were losing their lives to bacteria. But Norway’s public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

“Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway’s model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths — 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS — are unnecessary.”


Joe Glenn is president of Neofera, a company that distributes Silver Protocol, a wide-spectrum antimicrobial product ., or 800-213-0644.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 3, June/July 2010.

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