The story is familiar: you realize something isn’t quite right and start to feel ill. As days pass, your symptoms get worse and worse. Finally you decide to go to the doctor; as it turns out, you have a bacterial infection, and you receive a prescription for an antibiotic. The concept is to take the antibiotics over the allotted time period and they do their work, wiping out the foreign attacker and thus restoring your body to a normal state of health. But does this really work out? According to a recent study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the answer to this question is not at all. In fact, it’s possible that taking antibiotics for ailments could one day become a thing of the past.
Drug resistant bacteria and viruses are a well known fact, having been battled by scientists and doctors for decades now. The reason for this drug resistance is that viruses and bacteria both have the remarkable ability to constantly adapt and evolve new mutations that break down threats in their environment, often rendering even the newest drugs ineffective. This results in a constant cat and mouse game, as scientists fight to leap ahead and develop new, more effective antibiotic drugs before the living organisms they’re attempting to squash can catch up. Unfortunately for scientists, bacteria now have a brand new evolutionary trick, called the “biological timer”. In this new study, scientists exposed bacteria to repeated cycles of antibiotics, which were administered over a period of 3, 5 or 8 hours. They saw that, regardless of the time frame, the drugs had no effect on the bacteria at all. What happened? The bacteria had developed a way to go into a dormant state while antibiotics were being administered and then resume activity afterwards without any problems. Scientists are saying that this could be the reason for failures of prolonged antibiotic treatments in patients. I myself have experienced the failures of antibiotics first hand, as many people in my family who have taken antibiotics for things like strep throat or sinus infections complained that their symptoms weren't much improved, or they would wind up having to take large doses of the drugs in order to start feeling normal again.
So, then, is there a better way to battle these constantly mutating and evolving organisms? Definitely. In other branches of medicine, such as homeopathy and naturopathic medicine, there are many antibiotic-free approaches to eradicating harmful bacteria in the body. The logic is simple: antibiotics attempt to wipe out all bacteria, both good and bad, which often makes things worse in the long run. Alternatives such as herbal treatments, vitamins and supplements, pump up your immune system and give your body a chance to fend off bacteria and infections, without relying on any expensive medications. As nature’s evolutionary processes and drug resistant bacteria continue to threaten modern medicine, the real cure for infection is becoming more and more obvious: Let your body fight its own battles, and don’t let antibiotics get in the way.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "A first: Scientists show bacteria can evolve biological timer to survive antibiotics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630103140.htm>.
Image: Salmonella bacteria. Image. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Sysbio.30 June 2014.