A pandemic or worldwide epidemic is in progress. AIDS or HIV first described over twenty years ago is still a major cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Diseases, once thought eradicated, such as Tuberculosis (Tb) are reappearing in alarming numbers and in more virulent form. The influenza pandemic following World War One killed more people then any bullet. Ebola, Mad Cow, CJD, Epstein Barr virus are only a few of the many diseases that are repeatedly found in the headlines of newspapers around the world. DDT, first introduced in the middle part of last century is now in effective. Antibiotics first introduced approximately around the same time are proving to be inadequate. New strains of drug resistant pathogenic bacteria and viruses are showing up with alarming frequency all over the world. The conventional pharmaceutical medicine cabinet appears to be barren - in that these conventional pharmaceutical agents, such as antibiotics, are proving helpless against these new drug-resistant microbes.
Some five years ago the respected newspaper, USA Today first reported that health officials have warned that a new, deadly microbe has appeared. The particular case is centered on an individual from Michigan who was infected with the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. which is vancomycin resistant. The significance here lies in the fact that the drug vancomycin is typically regarded as the drug of last resort when dealing with Staph infections. Now over 90% of S. aureus strains are resistant to penicillin and similar antibiotics.
A common microbe present in all the intestines of mammals is Esherchia coli. In most cases it is involved with the digestion and elimination of food. However pathogenic forms can be very harmful and possibly causing death. One such pathogenic form - E. coli 0157: H7 was first identified some twenty years ago. This highly toxic mutation which is responsible for food-poisoning is on the rise worldwide and thus is of pandemic proportion. Recently it was responsible for causing a nation-wide food poisoning epidemic in the United States. In Japan an outbreak was recently reported involving this same pathogenic microbe where some 10,000 individuals became ill and 12 people succumbed to the infection. It is of interest that the causative vector for the United States epidemic was hamburger meat whereas in Japan it was hydroponically grown radish sprouts.
It has been estimated by the Center for Disease (CDC) - Center For Food Safety that up to 80% of all chickens, including their eggs are seriously contaminated with salmonella. The two most common causes of gastroenteritis (food poisoning) with salmonella are Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium. These pathogens are associated with not only chickens but also meat products. S. typhimurium is becoming increasingly resistant to a wide range of antibiotics. Salmonellosis can be very serious and may lead to death.
It has recently been reported on the ABC TV News that as many as 33 million individuals or approximately 10% of the population in the United States suffer from food borne illnesses or food poisoning each year. It was also reported that over 1,000 people die from this disease each year in the United States. Chronic infectious disease is now the leading cause of illness and the third leading cause of death in the United States. Antibiotics were a wonderful invention and for the most part are still effective in treatment of bacterial infection - though ineffective against virus. Various other bacteria have been implicated as causative of food borne illness and these include: Bacillus, Brucella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, Listeria, Shigellae, Vibrios, and Yersinia.
The first antibiotic, penicillin was developed in the early 1940's. This was a marvelous breakthrough in the treatment of bacterial infection in man and animals. At that time another use for antibiotics was discovered - growth promotion in agricultural animals. Simply, it was revealed that low levels of antibiotics would improve feed efficiency and growth in food animals. Thus the use of antibiotics became widespread in the agricultural sector worldwide.
Prior to the development of antibiotics widespread outbreaks of pathogenic forms of Staphylococcus aureus would kill up to 60% of individual who were infected. Some 60 years later and S. aureus is back to its old tricks - in that certain pathogenic strains of this microbe are not only antibiotic resistant but are also a common cause of deadly infections caught in hospitals.
In addition it has been reported by the CDC that virtually all important bacteria, causing infection, worldwide are developing some form of resistance. Because of this antibiotic resistance has been termed one of the world's most important public health issues. The widespread use of antibiotics is causative of resistant bacteria. Bacteria are very adaptive organisms due to their short life cycle. In this way they can quickly adapt or develop resistance to virtually any chemical or substance.
Initially antibiotic resistant bacteria were only found in hospitals where most antibiotics are used. However antibiotic resistance has now spread to the whole community as well. There are two bacteria which have become significant public health threats - Methicillin -resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae (PRSP) or Penicillin-resistant pneumococcus (PRP)
The cost of antibiotic resistance in regard to health and financial loss is staggering. It has recently been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) that approximately 14,000 people die each year in the United States as a result of infection caused by resistant bacteria. It has also been reported by WHO that antibiotic resistant bacteria are causative of 60% of hospital acquired infections. A recent study reported the death of 1,500 people caused by MRSA infection, in New York City alone. It should be pointed out that MRSA is one of the most common antibiotic resistant bacteria found in hospitals and associated facilities. Treatment costs associated with this outbreak were reported to be $500 million. It has been conservatively estimated that the financial cost to the United States of antibiotic resistance is $1.3 billion per year.
Tuberculosis (Tb) is still a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. It was reported by WHO that approximately 30 million people will die from Tb in the next 10 years unless something is done to control this disease. With the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains of Tb, especially in the HIV- infected population we truly have a pandemic on our hands.
The Role of Colostrum
The wonderful thing about the immune response is that the immunoglobulins and immune factors function in both a specific and non-specific manner in regard to a potential disease causing situation. Firstly, antibodies are specific in their function as they hunt down, fight and destroy specific pathogens. Antibodies were raised to these specific pathogens upon previous exsposure. The other immune factors function in a non-specific function to fight disease and disease causing agents such as bacteria, virus, and fungi. There is no resistance to the immune response and bacteria, virus, fungi can not develop resistance. Immunity is the best form of protection.
Doyle, M.E. Alternatives to Antibiotic Use For Growth Promotion in Animal Husbandry. Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin - Madison. FRI Briefings, April, 2001
Besser, R.B. Background on Antibiotic Resistance. CDC Antimicrobial Resistance Website. http://www.cdc.gov/antibioticresistance 11/10/01.
Levy S.B. Bacteria Battle Back: Addressing Antibiotic Resistance. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Services. November, 2000. pg 1-20.
Templeman, S., Templeman, L. An Alternative to Antibiotics. Today's Senior/Health. http://www.todaysr.com/health11.htm. 11/10/01
Center for Nutritional Research website. http://www.icnr.org/articles/article03.htm.