Tag Archives: Antibiotic resistance

Dr. C’s Journal: The Rise Of Antimicrobial Resistance

We are immersed in a vast sea of tiny organisms, microbes, most of which are either helpful or neutral. There are a few bad actors that can harm people and are responsible for plagues of the past, such as the black death, cholera and influenza epidemics.

This whole picture changed in the late 30s with the advent of Sulfonamides, and especially Penicillin, the “magic bullet”. I was practicing medicine early in the days when antibiotics eliminated almost all infections.

In fact, at one time infections were thought to be a problem of the past. Unfortunately, overusage, chronic multiple infections, surgically implanted devices, immune suppression for cancer and autoimmune diseases have allowed bacteria, fungi and viruses to evolve resistance mechanisms.

At the present time there are a number of bacteria, such as staphylococci, actino bacteria, enterococci, and candida that are essentially untreatable. Even if they are somewhat treatable, second and third level antibiotics are so toxic that they can cause problems with the kidney, liver, or heart.

In later postings, I plan to consider specific organisms and the situations in which they operate. I will also eventually talk about efforts to create new antibiotics by harvesting genetic material from unusual places, even our oceans.

—Dr. C.


Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest medical challenges of our time. Among the causes are industrial livestock farming, poor hygiene in hospitals, and the misuse of antibiotics. This documentary looks at approaches to fighting multiresistant strains of bacteria.

Each year 33,000 people in Europe die after becoming infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Hygiene specialist Dr. Ron Hendrix has been working for years to prevent outbreaks of infectious disease in hospitals. Dr. Hendrix says that he and other experts in the Netherlands recognized early on that they’d have to fight the spread of bacteria just as actively as they would the actual infection.

Hendrix has convinced a number of German hospitals to re-open their diagnostic laboratories, as well. In the early 2000s, many of these labs had been shut down as a cost-cutting measure. And farmers in Denmark voluntarily chose to sharply reduce their use of antibiotics, after evidence showed that intensive livestock farming caused multiresistant bacteria to multiply.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Patrick Soentjens was able to convince Belgium’s health ministry to allow the use of “phages” to treat stubborn antimicrobial resistant pathogens. Phages are special viruses that kill bacteria. Dr. Soentjens is certain that this well-known, but largely forgotten option could save many lives. Belgium has become the first western European country where phages have been officially recognized as a legitimate medical treatment.

Dr. C’s Journal: ‘Mutation’

Mutation is engrained in the very nature of life. Even if there were no X-rays, free radicals or toxic chemicals, mutation still would take place because of errors in the replication of DNA that occasionally escapes the proofreading mechanisms of meiosis and mitosis.

The majority of germline mutations produce LOSS OF FUNCTION, and are weeded out by evolution. In vertebrates, mutation is vital in producing the random changes in the DNA of germ cells of the ovaries and testes. If the mutation is beneficial, involving a GAIN OF FUNCTION, environmental selection acts to preserve the change, producing the diversity of organisms in the world, each exploiting a different environmental niche.

It is the rare species so versatile, like the shark, that can remain almost the same over eons without dying out. In the teeming unicellular world, mutation in the genome is similarly useful in allowing for variations which often prove useful for survival. The mutations thrive if the proper environment presents itself. For instance, antibiotic resistance may be encoded in a few members of a bacterial species, which become the dominant members in an infected patient on antibiotic treatment, and crowd out family members without the mutation.

In Viruses, RNA is often the Memory nucleotide. RNA is less stable than DNA. The resulting instability allows more mutations, and sometimes greater success. An example is the English Covid variant in the spike protein which leads to greater contagion. Hopefully, the spike protein change will not be so successful as to interfere with the effectiveness of vaccine-produced protective antibodies.

The Mutations we have been discussing refer to GERMLINE mutations, which occur in the gonads. In higher animals, germline mutations affect the offspring, which then carry the mutation. A GAIN OF FUNCTION mutation may confer greater adaptability and survivability, and perhaps may lead even to a different species, if the troop number is small and the environment demanding. Non-germ SOMATIC cell mutation may lead to undesirable effects like cancer, which is another discussion.

–Dr. C


The skin is the protective barrier between the inside of our bodies and the outside world of microorganisms, parasites and toxins. It is often the site of inflammation and infections.

In past times, before the advent of cleanliness and antibiotics, mankind was plagued by erysipelas, boils, carbuncles, and other severe infections of the skin, which are rarely seen now. The beta hemolytic streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus were ubiquitous in the past, and mostly are contained today.

Severe Infections presently require some skin abnormality, immune deficiency, neglect, animal bite or other breach of skin integrity to be a problem. Antibiotic resistance, however, is allowing some organisms like MERSA to make a comeback.

ECZEMA. or Atopic Dermatitis, was common in my medical practice. This condition weakens the skin barrier, allowing Staphylococcal infection to gain a foothold. In my day, If there were a flare of eczema severity, antibiotics would often help. Leg edema and swelling. such as from heart failure, especially coupled with diabetes and blood vessel disease is also an invitation to infection, such as cellulitis.

Redness, swelling, warmth and pain- the classic rubor, tumor, calor and dolor- as well as swollen local lymph nodes and fever often betray infection of the skin. Please see the recently posted infographic on celulitis.

IMMUNE DEFICIENCY raises the likelihood and risk of severe skin infections. Infection from “flesh-eating bacteria”, often beta hemolytic streptococci in deep tissue planes , is a medical emergency. Immediate surgery is often needed.

Disproportionate PAIN after injury or surgery is often a clue. Certain age groups have characteristic skin infections, such as the scalded skin syndrome of infants, and the acne of adolescents. Viruses, molds, and arthropods can also infect the skin.

Viruses, such as herpes in particular can simulate bacterial infection. Ringworm from fungi is easy to distinguish, but arthropod bites, and especially bee sting can look very much like bacterial infection. Scabies and mite infestation are so itchy as to be distinct.

Topical antibiotics applied on skin breaks like cuts or breaks are useful in preventing infection. These ointments and creams are like “artificial skin”. Once again, prevention is key.

–Dr. C.