By now you’re probably aware of the dangers of the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Increasingly, infections that can’t be killed off with drugs are making people seriously ill and proving deadly. Over 160,000 Americans die of multi-drug-resistant infection every year, and that number is growing.
As researchers seek out ways to stop the spread of these superbugs, they now warn that the biggest danger is coming from an alarming place— the products and food we buy at the store.
Research at the New Jersey Institute of Technology shows that microplastics – ultrafine plastic particles smaller than five millimeters long – in products like toothpaste, cosmetics and clothing microfibers are accelerating the dangers of drug-resistant infections.
Part of the problem starts when the particles in these products are washed down sink and tub drains or in washing machines (from our polyester clothes) and then are flushed through pipes to wastewater treatment plants. The New Jersey researchers say that the average treatment plant that services about 400,000 residents discharges up to 2,000,000 microplastic particles into the environment every day!
Microplastics Behind Deadly Superbugs’ Resistance to Antibiotics
It’s not the plastics themselves that are the problem—at least not when it comes to the spread of superbugs, but they are without question damaging our environment and our health in other ways. When it comes to superbugs the problem is that after they’ve traveled down our drains and enter those plants, those millions of microplastic particles can form tiny hubs that nurture the growth of resistant bacteria. The bacteria form a slimy biofilm on the plastics’ surfaces where the pathogenic microbes attach and flourish.
The analysis by the researchers shows that as these bacteria collect in biofilms it changes their genetic makeup in ways that multiply their resistance to antibiotics by up to 30 times!1 Even more shocking, that can happen without the presence of antibiotics – which were thought to be necessary to increase drug resistance. In other words, even if you’re not an individual who has taken course after course of antibiotics — maybe you’ve only taken a handful in your entire life — you’re still in great danger from these superbugs.
“Previously, we thought the presence of antibiotics would be necessary to enhance antibiotic-resistance genes in these microplastic-associated bacteria, but it seems microplastics can naturally allow for uptake of these resistance genes on their own.” says researcher Dung Ngoc Pham.
Furthermore, when the New Jersey scientists introduced antibiotics into the mix, which can happen in wastewater, the resistance was increased again – quadrupling.
“The presence of antibiotics,” comments Mr. Pham, “does have a significant multiplier effect however.”
An Ocean of Resistance
Researchers say drug-resistant bacteria are spreading throughout the environment. And it’s not just microplastics. These superbugs are even showing up in our oceans in marine life, including the fish we eat.
According to researchers at Florida Atlantic University, fish farming is helping to scatter infectious pathogens that can’t be treated with antibiotics throughout the earth’s waterways. From freshwater rivers to oceans, Florida researchers have found superbug infections among bottlenose dolphins living in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon are now widespread and are cause for serious concern.2
As researcher Gregory Bossart puts it, “Bottlenose dolphins are a valuable sentinel species in helping us understand how this affects human and environmental health.”
Added to that, you can include dairy cows in the list of animals who are hosting superbug infections.
A study by researchers at Penn State shows that when dairy cows drink water contaminated with heavy metals, they’re more likely to carry pathogens whose genes make them resistant to treatment with drugs.3
“Our findings are important because if bacterial antimicrobial resistance is transferred via the food chain by milk or meat consumption, it would have substantial implications for human health,” warns researcher Erika Ganda. “What we saw is, when heavy metal contamination is in the environment, there is potential for an increase of so-called ‘superbugs.'”
How to Potect Yourself
It’s important now more than ever before to take precautions against the growing threat of these pathogens. Basic protective measures include:4
- Frequent hand washing to lower the risk of infections.
- Vigilance against persistent infections. If you think you have an infection that has lasted longer than expected, consult with your healthcare provider on what to do about it.
- Increased hygiene practices for pet owners. If you have pets or other animals, always wash up thoroughly after caring for them and feeding them.
- Following proper health guidelines when handling foods or preparing meals. (See https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/index.html)
- Extra care when traveling out of the country. Read up on what health concerns you need to be aware of and if certain vaccinations are recommended before visiting your planned destination.
The threat of superbugs has been around for decades, and now it appears the threat is only growing. The latest research reinforces what I’ve always reported and heard from leading alternative and natural health pioneers over the years: your life depends on maintaining an iron-clad immune system. It’s your best protection against superbugs, cancer and even COVID-19.
While we’ve written extensively on how to fortify your immune system, a healthy lifestyle is critical.
Eat a diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, nuts, olive and coconut oils. Avoid processed foods and sugar. Exercise regularly, get enough sleep and manage stress—trouble in any of these areas can depress your immune system.
You can also supplement with immune-boosting nutrients. For example, supplementing with vitamin C, vitamin D, B vitamins, beta-glucan, mushroom extracts and zinc are just a fraction of the immune-boosters that can help you fight off disease-causing pathogens.