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Weaponizing Oxygen to Kill Infections and Disease

As scientists desperately search for alternative ways to antibiotics for fighting infections, a new study shows that oxygen activated by specially formulated photosensitizing light can kill antibiotic resistant bacteria like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The process consists of creating a spray or gel made of noble metal nanoparticles combined with amphiphilic polymers. To activate and use it, medical professionals would illuminate the product with blue or red light. According to Phys.org, the process has promise for fighting skin cancer and nail bed fungus, too.

We truly are in a race against time when it comes to finding ways to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Once easily treatable with common drugs, bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus are now a major health threat around the world. One study estimated that up to 50 percent of pathogens that cause surgical site infections, and 25 percent of those that cause infections following chemotherapy, are already resistant to common antibiotics.

The causes for this are well-known: overuse of antibiotics by both humans and agriculture. And in the U.S., the majority of antibiotics are used by agriculture enterprises, rather than in health care settings. Unfortunately, much of the agricultural usage is concealed. In countries like the Netherlands, health and agricultural agencies release two sets of antibiotics data — one for human usage and resistance and one for livestock — every year.

In the U.S., however, there is no comprehensive collection of such data. Instead, data on human antibiotics usage is compiled by a private company and available only for a steep fee. Pharmaceutical manufacturers keep track of veterinary antibiotic sales, which are then reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA).

When the numbers do come out, we find that animal use of antibiotics is catastrophic: Seventy percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used for purposes of growth promotion and preventing diseases in animals in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

And while the antibiotics may kill most of the bacteria in the animal, remaining resistant bacteria are allowed to survive and multiply. The FDA issued voluntary guidance on agricultural antibiotics in 2013, asking drug companies to remove indications for "feed efficiency" and "weight gain" from the labels of their antibiotic products. They also required veterinarians to oversee any addition of these drugs to animal feed and water.

Most companies agreed to comply with the guidelines and state they no longer use antibiotics for growth promotion purposes, but there’s a major loophole being exploited. Instead of saying the drugs are being used to promote growth, they simply state they use the antibiotics for disease prevention and control, a use that is still allowed under the FDA's guidance.

This leaves it up to you, the consumer, to speak up by demanding sustainably sourced, antibiotic-free meat and other animal products, and by choosing foods from farmers doing it the right way, you can help prompt real change industrywide. I encourage you to either buy direct from a trusted farm or look for the American Grassfed Association (AGA) logo, a much-needed grass fed standards and certification for American-grown grass fed meat and dairy.
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