The world is currently facing a crisis that isn’t being given as much press coverage as other crises. The long term effects to our wellbeing and global finances of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change are quite rightly top of the agenda of many news bulletins, research grants and government bodies.
Yet the impending antibiotic crisis isn’t something that’s being spoken about very much, generally speaking. But the problem of an antibiotic resistance crisis is a very serious one. Arguably as serious as a worldwide pandemic and climate change.
By the year 2050, antibiotic resistance is set to be responsible for the deaths of more people each year than cancer. Despite this threat, and despite extensively trying, researchers haven’t managed to develop a new class of antibiotics since the 1980s.
Antibiotics only work to treat bacterial infections. This means that they can be effective at treating the bacterial infections that cause conditions such as cystitis, skin infections, oral infections, some STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, certain cases of bacterial food poisoning and chest infections that haven’t responded to other treatments or cleared up on their own.
This also means that they’re useless against viral infections including flu and the common cold. Which is why you won’t get a prescription for antibiotics if you go to your GP with cold or flu symptoms.
Or at least, you shouldn’t. In the past though, persistent patients may have been guilty of pushing their GP into prescribing antibiotics for colds and flus. Or indeed, GPs may have prescribed them in order to make their patient feel like they’ve been listened to.
This kind of overprescribing, innocent or otherwise, has contributed in part to antibiotic resistance. But the main problem is the bacteria themselves. Bacterial cells have cell walls made of protein, that are like a ‘protein coat’. They’re sneaky little things, and are capable of changing this protein coat at their will.
Each type of bacteria have different protein coats, and each different family of antibiotics have been developed to interfere with a specific type of protein coat in order to destroy them. The problem is, once bacteria get wise to these antibiotics, they’re able to mutate over time, rendering the antibiotics designed to kill them, useless.
If the world doesn’t change its overuse of antibiotics, and we don’t find new ones, simple skin infections or routine operations will become so risky, that they could kill us.
And it’s not just a case of one country changing the way it prescribes antibiotics to protect the health of its people. We only need to look at the spread of the coronavirus to know that bacteria and viruses are virulent and aren’t stopped by geographical borders.
So we need different options. And it turns out, honey is one of them! Active healing honey, such as Necta & Hive Jarrah and Red Gum high TA honeys are naturally antimicrobial, meaning that they can kill or inhibit the growth of microbes including bacteria, viruses and fungi.
When it comes to coughs and upper respiratory infections, which are caused by viruses and not bacteria, the official advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) is to use honey to soothe the throat and calm a cough.
In fact, antibiotics are no longer routinely prescribed for sore throats, chest infections or ear infections. These are considered self-limiting conditions and will clear up over time, usually the same amount of time as if antibiotics were prescribed.
Active, healing honey is also effective at healing wounds and burns and researchers at the University of Birmingham are currently working on ways to use sterile honey to treat wounds on the battlefield.
Nature truly does hold the answer to so many of our woes, and honey is no exception. Let’s hope, that for the sake of all our futures, that honey is the answer to the impending antibiotic apocalypse.
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