The Rise of Superbugs In Britain

 In Health, Neolithic

My Pagan Ancestor Zuri, in 2200 BC, is shocked at our carelessness. I explained to her how we had overcome most of those diseases that had killed her people. Not least was the discovery of penicillin and yet just 80 years later we are down to our last antibiotic. That’s colistin, in case you didn’t know. It’s the last resort, the final antibiotic for those people infected by resistant bugs. It was pointless to explain to Zuri that 700,000 people had died last year from the rise of superbugs or that this figure is anticipated to be 10 million by 2050. These population figures cannot be understood by a hunter gatherer in a small Neolithic tribe.

Too Much Drama

Is this over dramatizing the situation? Many of those deaths would have occurred anyway. For certain, most of those people were really ill and at the end of their lives. Yet in amongst that number were younger people and medical science could not save them. Imagine catching the superbug TB. You would require 14,000 doses of antibiotic over two years. Even the BCG vaccine against TB is proving less effective. All this makes me astounded that Zuri and her people survived at all; or does it?

Breeding Resistance

It appears the real problem today is that 44% of all antibiotics are used on animals. Because these animals are also constrained in factory type farms, the opportunity for resistant bugs to develop is much higher. The UK does not allow antibiotics to be used as growth hormones but this is not the case in North America and the Far East. Perhaps the real problem is in the type of farming we allow.

Native Cattle

Zuri’s people had no antibiotics or veterinary services. She does not understand why our animals need so much attention. Perhaps it is because her cattle were small and wiry. Unlike our modern milk and beef breeds, they gave birth without human intervention, and ate a much wider range of herbs and plants. They gave far less milk, perhaps of better quality. For certain they were more robust in health simply because they and the people survived. Is it time to legislate to bring back native cattle and pigs and try to reduce our dependency on antibiotics and vets? If not, an increase in veganism may be the only answer. It will, at least, reduce stock numbers and, as a consequence, perhaps save us all from the rise of superbugs.

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