Antibiotics

Louis Pasteur is one of the fathers of the germ-based illness theory. He had probably inspired Alexander Fleming . When Fleming was working on penicillin, the theories on bacteria not developing in sterile environments or the fact they are linked to illnesses was more or less a fact. Still it took quite a few years between 1928, when penicillin was discovered and 1942, when it was started to be widely used. This was the first antibiotic.

One sometimes finds what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on Sept. 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did. by Alexander Fleming.

This was some time ago and multiple things had happened in between. One, we have started using multiple different antibiotics. Today these can be classed into 10 top categories:

  1. Penicillins
  2. Tetracyclines
  3. Cephalosporins
  4. Quinolones
  5. Lincomycins
  6. Macrolides
  7. Sulfonamides
  8. Glycopeptides
  9. Aminoglycosides
  10. Carbapenems

Two, we have started experimenting on bacteria, attempting to ‘weaponize’ them and as well to train them to transfer genomes. Like the ones used for GMO food.

Three, the bacteria started to learn and evolve, trying to survive the new wide-spread threat of antibiotics.

The common problem in this thinking is we were always taking bacteria as our enemy. They are dangerous and should be dealt with. The fact is, the same bacteria that can cause very harmful effects, can live in symbiosis with human gut biome (but not only). An example would be E. Coli.

Your lifestyle can and does influence your gut flora on a daily basis. Your gut bacteria are extremely sensitive to:

  • Antibiotics
  • Chlorinated water
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Pollution

All of these common exposures can wreak havoc on the makeup of bacteria in your gut, but there is an additional set of cascading ill effects of antibiotics in particular.

Not only are antibiotics overused in medicine, the vast majority of these drugs enter you via livestock – you consume antibiotics every time you eat meat from an animal raised in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). In fact, about 60 percent of all the antibiotics produced world-wide are used in agriculture – not only to fight infection, but to promote unhealthy (though profitable) weight gain in the animals. It is crucial that you avoid conventionally-raised meats.

The AMGP ban has shown that under good production conditions it is possible to reach good and competitive production results for the rearing of poultry, calves, and pigs without the continuous use of AMGP. As a result of the ban and a focus on disease prevention and correct use of antimicrobials, the total use of antibacterial drugs to animals in Sweden decreased by approximately 55% during the last 13-year period […]

How much antibiotics are there in our diet? Even by disbanding the use of antibiotics to cure a common cold, like this dangerously-high over-prescription rates in Poland ( In conclusion, the results of this small pilot study indicate that Polish first-contact doctors have an inadequate prescription behaviour in cases with upper respiratory tract infections.), there is still a lot. We’ll get back to how much soon, but there is one more worthwhile point to make. There is an indirect high-risk of being infected by animal-based, antibiotic resistant bacteria, by just consuming speed-farmed meat and animal products (like eggs).

Organic food is usually ‘more-contaminated’ by bacteria, but these bacteria show less antibiotic resistance and generally cause less harm to gut biome. There are two thoughts I could give this. One would be – the ‘organic’ bacteria don’t get stressed this much by microbe-killers, thus once consumed, they accommodate better within our gut microbiome (there is no fight for supremacy). Second, there must be a health factor of how much bacteria is there on a typical speed-farmed product and organic product. And less does not necessary mean better. Might be more is better, as there is a lot of link between healthy gut and microbiome. There are also links between what we eat and how we feel. Hell! There is a link of gut bacteria telling what the organism should eat!

The research adds a new perspective on coevolution of microbes and their hosts. “The findings show there is a unique pathway that has coevolved between animals and the resident bacteria in their gut, and there is a bottom-up communication about diet,” says Jane Foster, who is a neuroscientist at McMaster University in Ontario and not associated with the study.

Imagine what happens if you dump your gut with the nasty, angry, antibiotic-resistant strains, with wrong numbers and you spray this with residual remainder of breeding antibiotics?!

Now going back to how much antibiotic is used to farm animals nowadays.

Farm animals account for almost 2/3 of all antibiotics used in 26 European countries and at least 50% of antibiotics worldwide. In the UK, on-farm antibiotic use accounts for around 45% of total usage.

At present, it is legal under EU law to routinely ‘mass-medicate’ animals, even when no disease has been diagnosed. Antibiotics are widely used – especially for pigs and poultry – as an insurance policy against disease arising from low-welfare, cramped conditions.

The good news that the use of antibiotics in animals is steadily falling. Based on example UK data (2013-2017):

In mg/kg*
Based on use per ‘body-weight’, there was a reduction of 40% in food-producing animals
(from 62 mg/kg to 37 mg/kg) and 9% in people (from 135 mg/kg to 123 mg/kg).

As for antibiotic content of the organic meat vs non-organic meat.

The presence of antibiotics in non-organic meat is also a potential concern, according to a review published in 2010 in Toxicological Research. Authors of this review suggest that using antibiotics in food animals could cause resistant bacteria strains that may be harmful to human health, and antibiotics in food might disrupt the healthy bacteria balance in the human gut. (source)

The immediate reflections here are (and most would advocate to lessen the amount of antibiotics used, unless the main goal is to produce more, faster and cheaper):

  1. Less bacteria in animal products does not necessarily mean it is more healthy
  2. Less antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause more damage
  3. The antibiotics we consume cause harm to our gut microflora
  4. Antibiotics and so-called ‘animal-care’ movement claims extreme use of antibiotics is to improve animal welfare, but in fact it is just an excuse to limiting the living conditions of animals to bare minimum, to minimise cost/optimise profit for farmers
  5. The situation is improving in Europe, but no data available from the rest of the world

But what about GMO and other genetically-modified bacteria

  • Four components of our current food system causing a wide array of health and environmental problems are genetically engineered (GE) crops, pesticides, CAFOs, and the routine use of antibiotics in livestock
  • GE crops are heavily contaminated with glyphosate, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently classified as a “probable carcinogen” (Class 2A)
  • The use of antibiotics is not the only way our food system promotes antibiotic-resistance; herbicides like Roundup also promote antibiotic resistance by priming pathogens to more readily become resistant
  • Glyphosate may also promote antibiotic resistance by disrupting gut bacteria and dysregulating manganese utilization; manganese accumulation in bile acids allows Salmonella to gain a stronghold there

Would it help, if you knew, that non-organic meat, is produced from speed-bred animals, that are given mainly GMO-based feed?

In case you wonder why it is worth to spend the extra buck (or rather more) on free-range, organically grown food (including animal products), hope I have given you an extensive answer.

Note: grass-fed, free range, not always means organic!

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