Antibiotic Resistance and Food.
Today slightly different post then usually but I was just studying for my microbiology class and learned something very disturbing. The article I read was in the “Scientific American”, an addition to my microbiology textbook. It talked about antibiotic resistance. I learned a connection between antibiotic resistance and food and I think it’s an important matter to discuss.
Lets start with the idea of antibiotic resistance. How does one acquire resistance to drugs. Whenever we take an antibiotic to treat bacterial infection, it affects not only the targeted bacteria but all the bacterias within our body, good and bad ones. At the end of the treatment it usually killed all the harmful bacteria we wanted to eliminate and some beneficial ones and that’s absolutely normal. Unfortunately sometimes we have a strain of mutated bacteria which does not react to antibiotic treatment and because we killed many of the susceptible bacteria strains the bad guys have less opponents to compete for nutrients and they start growing rapidly. That scenario is very common among people that overuse antibiotics and use them even for viral infections. Btw antibiotics do not treat viral infections but many people still take antibiotics for common cold. And what’s even more alarming is that physicians in 1/3 of the cases prescribe antibiotics unnecessary for viruses just because patients demand it.
If that’s not enough we can acquire resistant bacterial strains through food, food that has been treated with antibiotics. It relates mostly to meat. Stock farmers (especially those big corporations) routinely give their animals antibiotics without any reason, just so they can grow faster and don’t get any diseases from those dirty conditions they live in. They give them very low doses of antibiotics for a long periods of time and as you can imagine those antibiotics kill good bacteria that might protect them but leave resistant strains untouched so they can reproduce even more and grow stronger. Later when we eat undercooked meat we might easily acquire those resistant strains. Moreover we ingest antibiotics administered to cows when we drink their milk.
Thing are not much better in agriculture. Most of the produce is sprayed with antibiotics to control bacterial infection but as it is the case with animals, resistant strains can develop in fruits and veggies. Also some of the antibiotic residue stays on produce and affects us when we eat it. That’s why organic is much better. Organically grown produce (and animals :/) is not treated with antibiotics unless there’s a must for it. There are many people out there who do not believe in the idea of organic and I must say that I’m not crazy about organic food either but mainly because sometimes it’s just way to expensive. Nevertheless I try to buy organic food whenever I can. What we can do is to thoroughly clean veggies and fruits so we wash out pesticides and antibiotics. I actually use veggie wash, it’s made of organic natural ingredients and washes away over 90% more residue that water alone. And if you’re a meat eater, either stop eating meat, buy organic, don’t eat undercooked meat or at least try to reduce meat consumption. You really don’t have to eat meat every day. There are tons of delicious meat free dishes out there, as I try to show it in my blog.
“Scientific American”, ‘The Challenge of Antibiotic Resistance’, S.B. Levy, Person, July 2007