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Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Hundred Thousand Dead

One Hundred Thousand Dead
In Science Daily July 13,2011 they announced that one hundred thousand Americans will die from bacterial infections this year - that’s equivalent to the entire population of Burbank, CA. Unfortunately, the number of these unnecessary deaths will only continue to increase in the future as more bacteria becomes antibiotic-resistant. What can be done to stop this?

At the moment, food animals consume more antibiotics than humans. A recent report noted that 80% of the antibiotics used each year in the U.S. are used in livestock feed. We could slow the development of antibiotic-resistance by taking preventive antibiotics out of livestock feed and only giving the animals that are sick antibiotics. We can also stop giving antibiotics to patients with viral illnesses. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial diseases, but often prescribed for viruses.

Overuse of antibiotics is not the only way that resistance spreads, however. Bacteria has two sets of DNA in each cell. If a resistant bacteria touches another bacteria, it can pass one set of its DNA to the adjacent bacteria thus spreading resistance. Also the resistance can spread to the offspring of a resistant bacteria. Another way of spreading bacterial resistance is through a virus called a bacteriophage. There are two types of bacteriophage (phage, for short): one of these, which is called lytic phage, kills bacteria, whereas the other, which is called temperate phage, will live in the bacteria and let the bacteria survive. This phage will reproduce itself in the offspring. When the bacteria becomes weak, this phage will leave the bacteria and infect other bacteria. Many times the temperate phage’s DNA will mix with the DNA of the bacteria and can spread resistance. With all the ways to spread resistance and all the overuse of antibiotics, resistance is increasing faster than ever.

So how can we stop bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics? One way might be with new and different antibiotic drugs. Right now, there are no new antibiotics being developed. Since the sixties there have been fewer and fewer of these drugs in development. It costs an estimated eight hundred million to bring an antibiotic to market; since some of the drugs will not get through the approval process, that eight hundred million may go for nothing. It is quite a risk to take for a medicine that will only be taken for two or three weeks. Congress is trying to pass a law to extend the length of a patent on antibiotics, giving the drug companies more incentive to develop them.

Of course, antibiotics have disadvantages other than resistance. Many times they are not effective in treating parts of the body where there is poor blood circulation. They also kill the beneficial bacteria in a body - such as the bacteria that helps us digest our food - along with the the disease-causing bacteria. This may lead to fungal infection in the lungs and other organs, or can cause secondary bacterial infections in people with weakened immune systems.

What if there were a solution other than antibiotics to fight stop the tide of infection-related deaths? In fact, there is a different way to fight bacterial infections - using lytic phage to kill bacteria. Phage therapy has been used for over 90 years with only minor side effects. Low blood circulation is not a problem. Killing beneficial bacteria is not a problem. Fungal infections are not a problem. Secondary bacterial infections are not a problem.

So why is this safe and effective therapy not used in the United States? Mostly because of the way our drugs are approved in this country, and because of a disrespect for scientific research done in the former USSR. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a “one size fits all” mentality. The phages that work well in Florida may not work as well in New York because different places have different bacteria. Even people in the same geographical area can have different bacteria. So because phage therapy cannot be tested using the same “formulation” for every infection, the FDA won’t accept the research showing the safety and efficacy of this solution.

What I want to achieve with this blog is to spread awareness of the problem. I want to get other people’s ideas on how to solve this issue. I want to get other people involved in spreading the word - to find people willing to talk to their congressman. I want to see the day when we are not losing 100,000 people a year needlessly! Leave a message on the blog and I will get back to you,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tuberculosis Taking Over From AIDS as #1

Tuberculosis taking over from AIDS as #1

In April 2012, an outbreak of tuberculosis began in Jacksonville, Florida. There were 99 cases with 13 deaths -- the largest outbreak in the United States in the last 20 years. Because only a small portion of the people that were exposed have been tested, more cases are expected. This outbreak took place in the homeless community, which is very mobile, so we can expect more case throughout Florida and in other states.

In the United States, 5 to 10% of the population is infected with the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. Most of the infected individuals do not show any symptoms. Their immune system is protecting them. As with most bacterial diseases, children under 6, seniors over 65, and people with a compromised immune system are more vulnerable. It is important to treat people without symptoms because about 5 to 10% of them will come down with tuberculosis within 10 years. There is a tuberculosis vaccine, but it is not totally effective.

Many tuberculosis bacteria strains are becoming resistant to multiple antibiotics. This makes it harder to treat the disease. The treatment for tuberculosis can require up to two years of antibiotic treatment. If someone stops taking the drugs during this period, the bacteria can develop resistance to the drugs that are being taken. To prevent this, health departments send workers to the patients’ houses each day to make sure they take their meds. People who are hard to manage are usually hospitalized. Even with antibiotics, 10% of those who contract tuberculosis will die.

In people who do not get antibiotic treatment, there is a 50% death rate. In Italy, Iran and India they have a strain of tuberculosis that is totally drug-resistant. They have no way to treat it. Tuberculosis is the second most deadly disease on Earth, second only to AIDS. With the advent of totally drug-resistant tuberculosis, it is likely to become #1. It is only a matter of time before it spreads over the whole world.

There is an answer to this problem. It was used in the United States in the 1930’s before the advent of penicillin. It is called Phage Therapy. Phage is short for bacteriophage, a virus that kills bacteria. The great thing about phage is that, like bacteria, it mutates. So when bacteria develops resistance, phage can mutate to a form that will kill the bacteria. In most cases, a new phage can be found within a few weeks.

Worldwide, deaths from malaria have dropped in half. We can now cure 90% of stage one cancer. The lifespan of humans is longer than ever before. It’s a shame to go backwards because of drug-resistant bacteria. There are already several bacteria that are resistant to all but one antibiotic. The World Health Organization stated that in the near future our current antibiotics won’t work. The time to bring back phage therapy is now.

Monday, July 16, 2012

About This Blog

About twenty years ago, I saw a TV show about a therapy that was used in the Soviet Union to treat bacterial infections. They used viruses called bacteriophages to kill bacteria. The therapy was very inexpensive. In the show, they stated it would never come to the United States because it could not be patented.

Recently I was looking up information on the FDA when I decided to check up on this therapy.  I learned that the FDA had approved using bacteriophage on food to kill bacteria, but stated they would never approve a medicine that could mutate. It seemed to me  they were saying that it is safe to eat bacteriophage but not safe to take the same thing when it is called medicine.

Today people are dying from drug-resistant bacteria. When someone gets infected with drug-resistant bacteria, doctors must race to find an antibiotic that will kill the bacteria before the bacteria kills you. There are many bacteria that are resistant to all antibiotics but one. It is just a matter of time before bacteria develop resistance to all antibiotics. This will kill a lot of people.

In this blog, I will try to make the general public aware of this problem. I will have articles on bacteriophage, bacterial infection like the recent TB outbreak in Florida, food recalls because of bacterial infection and other related articles.

My goal is to change laws and regulations to make it possible to get bacteriophage used as medication in the United States. I would like to find like-minded individuals to start a non-profit company for that purpose. The FDA is a political organization that is visited by drug companies everyday. To get them to change, the voters need to apply lot of pressure. This is why there needs to be voter education on this issue.

                                                                    John Symons
Graduate Of University of Florida 1965
Worked managing restaurants and a produce company,
and worked for a small package delivery company
Presently retired.