A word about antibiotics…

Antibiotic_Guardian_CertificateOn 18th November it is European Antibiotic Awareness Day (link to UK resources). There has been a lot of coverage in the media in the last 12 months about concerns that we are going to run out of antibiotics – including from the World Health Organisation. There are a number of reasons for this, including over prescribing by doctors, not completing the course by patients, as well as increased use in farming. The threat is that we may suddenly find ourselves unable to treat what were previously very treatable infections as they develop resistance to the antibiotics we have. Antibiotics are very expensive to research and develop, and don’t make pharmaceutical companies as much money as other drugs, so they are not that interested in creating more.

However, this is not a new thing. For at least 10 years we have heard about the rise of hospital superbugs,  such as MRSA (or the MRSA virus in some parts of the American press – so very wrong on so many levels). And I know all about that, because when I was in hospital in 2005, I picked up MRSA. It was detected after a second emergency operation. I was stuck in a hospital bed, with staples right down my middle when a military officer appeared and drew the curtains around my bed. They told me they were from the infection control team, and that I had MRSA. Now, at that time I was  less aware than I am now, and I asked them (and please bear in mind I was not in a great place at this point, being about a month into my hospital stay) if I was going to die. That is what I knew about people in hospital with MRSA – they died.

Thankfully, the Daily Mail is usually wrong and I was assured that I was not going to die, but would be given treatment. I was moved into a side room and barrier nursed for the rest of my stay. Part of the treatment was a very potent antibiotic called vancomycin, which is given through a drip. It is nasty stuff, and after every three doses I had to have a new cannula fitted because it felt like it was burning my veins. I had to wash in a special antibacterial wash, and apply a nasal gel. I eventually managed to get two clear swabs a week apart, and a nice sticker on my hospital file. I’ve had to be retreated several times too.

Actually, 30% of the population carry MRSA. It’s only a problem if you have an open wound but can be easily spread. It is why visitors (and staff and patients) in hospital are asked to use hand gel – and do ask them too if you are a patient.

So how do super bugs become super? Ever had a course of antibiotics and not finished the course because you felt better after a few days? Or pestered your GP for antibiotics for something that was probably a viral infection? Do you love antibacterial everything? Well, collectively all of us who have are in part responsible. Not to mention increased antibiotic use in the food chain.

Remember evolution? When we only partially complete a course of antibiotics the bugs that were not killed get a little bit stronger. And eventually adapt to no longer be susceptible to the antibiotic. So a new one is required. And that brings us back to a lack of new antibiotics. There have already been cases of vMRSA. The zombie apocalypse could be infections we can no longer treat. You can however make a difference. Pledge to be an antibiotic guardian. Visit http://www.antibioticguardian.com and spread the word. Believe me, you don’t want to have to deal with MRSA.

A world unseen…

In my recent-ish post ‘Musings on Free Time‘ I considered getting more involved in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and mentioned the #getyourbellyout campaign – you can check out that hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and there is also a Facebook group. I even joined in!

In the middle of June there was then a flurry of publicity around IBD and Crohn’s Disease. Firstly, Crohn’s Colitis UK launched there new Fatigue Screening tool, in reporting this there was some misrepresentation in the media – I talked about it all here. Then the story of Bethany Townsend went viral and received lots of media coverage – The Daily Mail & The Daily Mirror to name just two.

This has produced some interesting reaction around the IBD and ileostomy/ internal pouch community. First, a bit of explanation…

Crohn’s Colitis UK is a charity supporting people with Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis (I have Crohn’s).

The ia – The Ileostomy & Internal Pouch support group is a charity that supports people (and their families) with an ileostomy – that is when the small bowel is brought to the surface of the skin as a stoma and has a bag placed over it to collect waste, often after the removal of the colon, and internal pouches – where a reservoir is created from small bowel following the removal of the colon (large bowel).

The #getyourbellyout campaign raises money for Crohn’s Colitis UK, and along with Bethany’s story and subsequent publicity there was some negativity that the ia had not tried to get involved and gain some publicity/ raise awareness of themselves as all of this had been going on – as well as being critical of perceived error in reporting – referring to a colostomy rather than an ileostomy.

According to accounts on the forum, the ia is happy where it is and has in the past been resistant to raising it’s profile further. Crohn’s Colitis UK, who have used Bethany’s story, have celebrity ambassadors – Sam Faiers from the Only Way is Essex and Carrie Grant for example. However, one tweeter has been keen to point out that Crohn’s Colitis UK have over £1m in the bank, and last year spent more on staffing and on costs than on research.

Now I have not been really involved with either charity – although I am a member of both – and I’m not overly concerned by either aspect – although interested to see the dialogue develop between this tweeter and the CEO of Crohn’s Colitis UK. And I think that the ia is a very specialist charity – relatively few people are affected or interested. What is important, in my view, is that people who are affected are informed about the existence of these charities either at the point of diagnosis or surgery (or when surgery is being considered). That obviously requires a level of resource to produce information, as well as volunteers to support local group infrastructure to support members and potential members. It’s never going to have the reach of the larger health charities, but both do good work – and raising awareness of both IBD and ileostomies and internal pouches is important – to me at least.

My local CCUK group has just restarted, and I look forward to attending meetings with both.

Oh baby baby

So as it has been officially announced now, I guess I can start writing about it. I am having a baby! Not me personally, science is not yet ready to do that, but my wife is carrying our child. Due in July of this year, baby Harris will be a massive change to our lives.

Being a modern man I shall be scouring the internet for tips and stuff like that, so if anyone has any good sites, YouTube channels or similar, do let me know – I’ll share what people tell me about too.

Now I know that for various reasons not everyone likes to read about baby stuff – so I’m setting up a seperate baby blog. Will confirm the address once it is set up!