Antimicrobial overuse

Throughout the pandemic, I have been so upset to see the plethora of anti-bacterial wipes, hand gels, sprays everywhere.

This pandemic is the result of a virus, not a bacteria. Stating the obvious? Well, of course, but why then this proliferation of anti-bacterial products?

We’re all obsessively cleaning with products which are designed to kill bacteria and whilst that is helpful in the presence of a pathogenic bacteria, hot water and a plain bar of soap are actually more effective than all these sanitation products. Just don’t put your hand in your mouth until you’ve washed it! But, even then your stomach pH is so high, it is designed to kill off most things.

The biggest issue and the reason it upsets me is that all these anti-bacterial chemicals are also killing our own beneficial microbiome layers such as those on our skins. Without this protective later, we are more susceptible to infection and proliferation of things we don’t want there and which will make our skin unwell.

They are going also into our water systems and being exposed to the bacteria in the waterways, sinking to the bottom of our oceans. Bacteria are clever. They live in colonies and only one in a colony needs to be introduced to an anti-bacterial agent for them all to understand how to overcome it. This is leading us at great speed into the frightening world of total anti-biotic resistance which renders us all vulnerable to the super-big infections such as MRSA. My fear is that CoVid-19 is nothing in face of what might be round the corner.

A recent article on Medscape told of animicrobial overuse in hospitals throughout the pandemic as well. So, even the experts are at it.

Not only this but the overuse of antibacterial agents on our bodies and homes mean that we aren’t exposed to microbes which support us and keep us healthy. A documentary a while back showed that children with allergies had much lower varieties of bacteria in their guts and that was one of the reasons they were so sick. Grubbing about in the soil is good for us. And, all the additional variety of microbes we are exposed to when we play in parks is also beneficial and will protect us.

To this end, I was delighted when my baby started putting soil-y stones in her mouth. A little bit of grub would hopefully go some way to improving the gut microbiome baptism she was denied due to the emergency caesarean section I had when she was born. There are of course limits…

Not only are these products damaging our personal environment but they are damaging the environment at large too. All those plastic wipes which won’t break down and will form microplastics in our oceans, soils, fish and meats. All those disposable masks, aprons, gloves made from plastics. We are shoring up some huge problems which we can’t see right now because our heads are in survival mode. Whilst CoVid-19 is a very real threat to certain vulnerable groups, the survival rate is high for most others. As a healthy 40-something, I feel more afraid of what we are creating in response to this pandemic than I am by the virus itself. I don’t fancy long-covid and I am fortunate not to know anyone who has died from CoVid. Perhaps I would feel differently if I did but, right now, I am more afraid for our futures than our present.