Sometimes you walk out of a movie theatre feeling inspired after viewing a film. Sometimes, you are left mystified over the film's plot twist or maybe even in awe of the creativity in making it. But, after walking out of a film preview I saw recently, I felt both horrified and alarmed. The film, Resistance, illustrates survival of the fittest in the tiniest of ways, but those microscopic ways deliver a gigantic, massive impact to all of us. This film is a sobering documentary on germs and their ability to survive and cause antibiotic resistance infections that can affect all of us, directly or indirectly, in life-altering ways.
The film, previewing now in the US, shows the history of antibiotics from when they were first introduced in the 1940s as a medical miracle to the present. Their unfortunate overuse in agriculture, the military, medical treatments and in our food have directly led to the resistant infections that strike two million Americans each year. The director, Michael Graziano, details several stories of healthy individuals of all ages that contract an antibiotic-resistant infection leading to comas, loss of limbs and even human life. These stories all illustrate the danger of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and the reality that it can happen to you or someone you care about no matter your age or degree of health.
Antibiotic's Miraculous But Disorderly Path
The director and its sponsors (Applegate, Environmental Working Group, Food & Water Watch, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Slow Food USA) are not the only ones sounding the alarm bells. In a recent report, the World Health Organization warned that our excessive use of antibiotics all over the world has sparked such a degree of drug resistance that it could threaten our survival. Bacteria that are constantly exposed to antibiotics through overexposure eventually mutate into stronger, resistant strains of themselves. It is not a hypothesis. It is science and it is happening now. Further, one doctor on the panel discussion I attended following the film preview in Washington, D.C. said that even strep throat, in perhaps as little as 10 years from now, could threaten life. It could become drug resistant and no longer be treated.
Certainly, chemists and drug companies are working on creating new antibiotics, but if we overuse those as well, we only propagate the problem. In addition, newer drugs could cost upwards of thousands of dollars for a single treatment as they are expensive to develop. The future could hold one that includes dying of an infection simply because you will be unable to afford the cost-prohibitive treatment.
How Did We Get Here?So how did this happen? How did we end up on the other side of modern medicine that provided pills to pop to cure many. Here are some specifics on how we got here:
- Doctors over-prescribe antibiotics in the medical industry even when an antibiotic will not make the patient better.
- Many patients fail to finish their antibiotic prescriptions because they feel better before the course is complete causing the bacteria to become stronger.
- Animal farming practices where animals are dosed daily with antibiotics to prevent illness and perhaps promote animal growth create possible superbugs that spread among animals and workers. It further permeates into our water and soil. These meat products are delivered to stores consumed by you.
- Human consumption of antibiotic-injected meat leads to resistance to the drugs in human beings.
What Measures To TakeSo now what? Are we helpless towards this army of drug resistant forces? The truth is we have as a world society squandered a miracle cure and could further contribute to the damage. But, there are measures to take that can help change the disastrous course:
Get a sample. Much like taking a strep throat culture when you have a sore throat, if you are suffering from an infection, ask your doctor to take a culture or perform a lab sample to test for which antibiotic would be useful against your particular bacterial infection. If your infection is viral, no antibiotic would help and only further your susceptibility to antibiotic resistance strains.
Stay the course. If given a course of antibiotics, finish the entire course, even if you start to feel better. This is to ensure no bacteria is left in you to cause drug resistance.
Make more thoughtful purchases. If you eat meat, choose organic meats where no antibiotics were administered to the animals. Create a greater demand for humanely treated animals that have not been treated with unnecessary drugs.
Practice safe cooking. Do not wash meats. The splashes they create spread bacteria. Reserve separate cutting boards for vegetables and for meats and fish. Always bag meats separately in your refrigerator and when shopping. Cook to recommend temperatures.
Spread the word. Tell your friends, your family about this phenomenon. Watch the film. (You can get it here.) It is so well done.
Speak loudly. Real reform will require change at the top. We need policy change to address the prudent use of antibiotics. Speak out loudly against antibiotic overuse. The US is lagging behind the United Kingdom and the European Union against taking measures to reduce this resistance. Go here to tell Congress to stop the use of antibiotics in animals.
So tell me, have you heard of antibiotic resistance? What actions do you take to help the situation? Have you seen the film Resistance and if so, what did you think?
green bacteria: photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/510676658/">AJC1</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>
petridish: photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathanreading/5833401441/">Nathan Reading</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>