Wednesday, November 20, 2013


A couple of links for the day, with a quick story.

I had to take some antibiotics over the summer. I had some sort of an infection that had the lymph nodes in my neck so excited that it looked like I was growing a goiter. It was uncomfortable, but I tried to be patient and let it (whatever it was) run its course and get better on its own. But it didn't, and I eventually ended up seeing my doctor, who seemed pretty confident that I was suffering from a bacterial infection of some sort (probably caused by one of the usual summertime suspects: an insect bite, or a dirty scratch, etc).

Ten days of antibiotics got my neck back down to normal size, but it also made a disaster of my digestion. My doctor warned me. She even suggested that I go ahead and take some probiotics along with the antibiotics (at which point, I wondered how they would manage not to cancel each other out!) to try to mitigate the disruption that the antibiotic was going to cause in my gut. I'm not sure if the probiotic supplement helped or not -- perhaps it would have been worse if I had not been taking them, but as it was, I was not feeling like I had a happy gut for about a month after.

I'm really grateful that antibiotics were an option for me. The alternative is pretty horrifying. But that is just the path we're headed down on this planet if we don't stop abusing antibiotics:

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

After 85 years, antibiotics are growing impotent. So what will medicine, agriculture and everyday life look like if we lose these drugs entirely? 

I'm also grateful that the emerging science of the microbiome is cluing us into ways we can manage our exposure to drugs that don't discriminate between beneficial and harmful bacteria:

How To Recover Gut Health After Antibiotics

There was a time when I didn't worry a whole lot about keeping wounds clean (hell, I'd let the dog lick my boo-boos if it amused her). But I'm starting to suspect that I'm one of many people who have been taking antibiotics for granted. And now we're learning that having to take antibiotics is a double whammy: it could diminish the drugs' utility for everyone, and it messes up the individual's microbiome. I hope it's a long time before I need to go there again.

UPDATE: Why the post-antibiotic world is the real-life version of the zombie apocalypse


Keera Ann Fox said...

Norway has been taking the lead on trying to curb overuse of antibiotics. After several scares from bacteria brought home by vacationers who'd been abroad, Norwegian hospitals started to realize that we need a world-wide curb on the use of antibiotics.

alice said...

Hopefully the rest of us will follow Norway's lead. Yes, this is going to have to be an international effort, or it will make little difference. Too many of us are carrying our bacteria from one side of the globe to the other!