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The Antibiotic Paradox: How the Misuse of Antibiotics Destroys Their Curative Powers
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The Antibiotic Paradox: How the Misuse of Antibiotics Destroys Their Curative Powers

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Description:

In this totally revised and updated edition of the classic primer on the misuse of antibiotics, Dr. Stuart Levy reveals how our cavalier and naïve attitude about the power of antibiotics can have -and already has had-dire consequences. He explains that we are currently witnessing a massive evolutionary change in bacteria. This build-up of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria in individuals and the environment, mixed with our overzealous use of antibiotic soaps and the unregulated dispensing of antibiotics worldwide, is leading us into a dangerous territory where our "miracle" drugs will no longer help.

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  • ISBN13: 9780738204406

  • Condition: New

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Product Details:
Author: Stuart B Levy
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Publication Date: 2002-01
Language: English
ISBN: 0738204404
Product Length: 5.5 inches
Product Width: 0.87 inches
Product Height: 8.5 inches
Product Weight: 0.92 pounds
Package Length: 8.1 inches
Package Width: 5.3 inches
Package Height: 1.0 inches
Package Weight: 0.9 pounds
Average Customer Rating: based on 5 reviews
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9 of 10 found the following review helpful:

4The book was well explained and educational  May 16, 1999

Could the chemicals that help us survive today become useless in the near future, leaving us defenseless against dangerous bacteria. This is a very real possibility. In The Antibiotic Paradox by Plenum Press, Stuart Levy confronts this problem. Antibiotic resistance is not a new problem it has been known about since antibiotics were discovered. Still, we are learning more about how it works. The book also talks about how it can be controlled. The first antibiotic was penicillin, which was extracted from a mold. Penicillin was used in small quantities in WW2. Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, warned that if many small doses of penicillin were given then the microbes would be educated to resist the medicine. As more kinds of antibiotics were discovered the problem of resistance seemed unimportant. This is despite studies during the 40's and on that more and more resistant bacteria are being found. How are these bacteria becoming resistant? There are a couple ways that bacteria can become resistant. These ways are all started by an initial mutation. In a colony of bacteria one or two might have a certain mutation that makes them resistant to an antibiotic. When an antibiotic is used to kill that colony, the only bacteria left are the resistant ones. Now those bacteria have no competition for resources and they start to multiply more quickly. So there now is a colony of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Often the bacteria is harmless so we are not going to get sick but sometimes it is a disease causing bacteria. There are two ways that bacteria can resist an antibiotic. One is that the outer membrane is not very permeable to the antibiotic. The other is the bacteria can secrete an enzyme that destroys the antibiotic. The second is more dangerous because the harmless bacteria could be secreting this enzyme and destroying the antibiotic which will enable the harmful bacteria to survive. The other problem is sometimes harmless bacteria gives their plasmid, which contains a resistance gene, to harmful bacteria who will then become resistant. How can we keep the bacteria from becoming resistant to all our drugs? This is where the paradox comes in, how can we use antibiotics effectively without allowing bacteria to become resistant to them? First, we have to limit the use of antibiotics. They should be used only when nothing else will work and only when it is necessary. This is often hard because patients might demand to have the drug when it is not needed, but the doctors must make the final decision. There also are places where no restriction on use is followed. For example on resistant strain of bacteria was traced to brothels in Vietnam where penicillin was given to prevent disease in the women. Scientists have also found bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. This is why we need to control the use of them so all of them don't become useless. We need to be aware of the problem that exists and try to stop it from getting worse. I think the book is a little repetitive because it repeats the same message too often. The message is that if we don't use antibiotics responsibly than they will become ineffective. This is a good point but it is easy to understand so it doesn't have to be repeated. Other than that it does a good job of making me aware of a problem that I hardly knew existed. I even try to think of other ways we can limit the misuse of antibiotics, like only allowing them to be injected so the patient will not try to get them unless he or she really needs them. It is important for a book to make you think.

1 of 1 found the following review helpful:

5A Frightening Scenario  Dec 05, 2012
By Amazon Customer
Antibiotics are wonderful lifesavers, yet they come with limitations and inherent dangers. Even Fleming warned that overuse of antibiotics would have consequences, and history has proven him correct.
Levy writes that 100,000 pounds of antibiotics are used annually to treat fruit trees. In the past half century tons of them have been used to treat crops, plants, farm animals, fish, bees, lobsters, and yes people. Why is this a problem? The bacterial targets of antibiotics are not static, but have the ability to evolve, adapt, and change, as well as the ability to borrow and exchange whatever it takes from each other to become ever more resistant to our shrinking arsenal of working antibiotics. The danger is that disease causing bacteria can eventually become impervious to any and all current antibiotics.

Levy details the dangers of misuse and overuse of antibiotics. He bemoans the current practice of adding antibiotic chemicals to too many everyday cleaning products, especially to hand soaps. Patients and prescribers must become more vigilant if humankind is to stay ahead of the war against diseases. Levy sugggest putting antibiotics in a separate category of pharmaceuticals to better control and monitor them.

The Antibiotic Paradox, though somewhat dated now, is a readable and still relevant book on a topic of great importance that affects us all.

1 of 1 found the following review helpful:

5Moving toward the post-antibiotic era  Sep 02, 2012
By Richard Reese (author of Sustainable or Bust)
Antibiotics are a family of drugs used to treat bacterial infections, including diseases like the bubonic plague, pneumonia, typhus, cholera, and tuberculosis. The first antibiotic to hit the market was penicillin, in 1941. It was soon seen to be a wonder drug, because it saved so many lives. Prior to antibiotics, there were no effective treatments for many life-threatening diseases -- they were incurable. The new drugs revolutionized the practice of medicine, giving doctors power that had previously been unimaginable.

Of course, every technological miracle has a dark shadow of harmful side effects, unintended consequences, and fatal flaws. Dr. Stuart Levy described this ominous shadow in his book, The Antibiotic Paradox. He did an excellent job of explaining a very complicated subject in a manner that ordinary folks could readily comprehend.

Our skin and digestive system are home to far more bacteria than the number of cells in our body. Sometimes bacteria get under our skin, and reproduce faster than our immune system can kill them. This is an infection, and infections can sometimes be fatal.

"An antibiotic is a natural substance made by one microorganism that inhibits growth of another microorganism." Most antibiotics originated as molds or soil bacteria. Both friendly and unfriendly microorganisms enjoy reproducing at a phenomenal rate, and they often mutate genetically. Some of these mutants are drug-resistant, because they can survive contact with one or more antibiotics. These resistant survivors then proceed to produce large numbers of bulletproof offspring.

Science has attempted to eliminate resistant strains by developing new forms of antibiotics. Naturally, the bacteria continued reproducing and mutating until they became resistant to the new super drug in town, sometimes as soon as two years after its introduction.

As fast as science created new antibiotics, infectious bacteria developed resistance to them. It's the same story with herbicide-resistant weeds, fungicide-resistant plant diseases, and insecticide-resistant crop pests. No matter how hard they try, or how much money they spend, scientists will never put Mother Nature in a cage.

There are a finite number of substances suitable for use as antibiotics. They must be effective, free of serious side effects, and capable of being mass produced. The low-hanging fruit has already been picked, and inventing new antibiotics is becoming more and more challenging and expensive.

Drug companies are losing interest in creating new antibiotics, because they are not highly profitable. This is because they usually work very well, curing the patient in a matter of days, ending the need for further treatment. Drug makers are far more interested in creating medicines that patients have to take for the rest of their lives, because they are goldmines.

Everyone agrees that the problem of antibiotic-resistant disease pathogens will never be solved. The microbes will inevitably develop resistance to any new pharmaceutical weapon. It's only a matter of time. No amount of money or magic can fix this. Most antibiotic-resistant pathogens are resistant to more than one antibiotic, or MDR (multiple drug resistant). Some MDR pathogens are resistant to all drugs, and are uncontrollable. The magic bullets are losing their spunk.

We are moving inevitably toward the post-antibiotic world, and we are doing little to delay this. Indeed, the way we are using these drugs is speeding us toward the end of their usefulness. Many forms of antibiotic use result in increased profits, and we are far more interested in profits than in the future.

The more we use antibiotics, the faster resistance develops. If our main objectives were to protect human lives, and to delay the arrival of the post-antibiotic era, we would limit their use to treating sick humans. Doctors would quit giving antibiotics to patients suffering from colds or flu, no matter how loud they whine, because these drugs are useless against viral diseases. The misuse of antibiotics by doctors is widespread.

The US produces 50 million pounds of antibiotics annually, and about 70 percent of them are given to livestock and poultry. Most of the drugs given to animals are not to treat disease, but to prevent disease, and to make them grow bigger and faster. Typically, the drugs pass through the animals in active form, in their manure, and persist in the environment. The manure is often spread on fields where food crops are grown. Some of the drugs run off the farm and into drinking water and fish.

Antibiotics are also used on dogs, cats, fur-bearing animals, shellfish, aquarium fish, fish farms, horses, fruit trees, palm trees, ornamental plants, honey bees, potatoes, tobacco, peppers, tomatoes, and celery. The drugs are everywhere, and wherever they are, they promote drug resistance. MDR pathogens are also literally everywhere.

The world of microorganisms is a spooky place. There are harmless bacteria that are MDR, and they can transfer their drug-resistant characteristics to disease-causing bacteria. Genetic material is readily exchanged between different types of microbes.

In one experiment, a calf was given a marked variety of E. coli bacteria. Before long, the bacteria were found in nearby mice and flies. It spread to pigs, chickens, and turkeys living at a significant distance from the calf. Humans on the farm began excreting the E. coli.

Antimicrobial hand soaps provide no real protection, and may actually be harmful. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we discovered that rates of allergies and asthma were far lower in Eastern Europe, an environmental disaster area. Some theorize that reduced hygiene inspires healthier immune systems, because they get regular "exercise." Being too tidy may be unhealthy.

Levy's objective was to publicize the problem of antibiotic misuse. If we used them with great care, then we could extend their usefulness in treating human diseases. The future of antibiotics is highly uncertain, but Levy is not out to scare us. He suspects that we might not experience a complete antibiotic wipeout in the "foreseeable future" (a fuzzy timeframe).

But the danger is real and substantial. MDR pathogens are now very common. "This situation raises the staggering possibility that a time will come when antibiotics as a mode of therapy will be only a fact of historic interest." Optimists can celebrate the notion that when antibiotics become useless, far fewer people will die from cancer and heart disease.

Our wild ancestors experienced far less infectious disease because they lived in small, isolated groups. They didn't live in close contact with other species, nor did they congregate in filthy cities. By living in their traditional, time-proven manner, they remained healthy, and had no need for wonder drugs.

Richard Adrian Reese
Author of What Is Sustainable

4 of 6 found the following review helpful:

5Resistance can lead to disease outbreaks  Apr 12, 2002
By Midwest Book Review
The Antibiotic Paradox appears in a newly revised second edition to update information on the misuse of antibiotics in general and Cipro in particular, linking new mutations of bacterial resistance to the overuse of Cipro and other important antibiotics. Resistance can lead to disease outbreaks: The Antibiotic Paradox examines the build-up of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria and examines medical and social trends in treatment options.

5The Antibiotic Paradox  Sep 03, 2013
By Yvonne Stapp
This is a very important book for the general public and also for scientists who are not specialists in microbiology. I didn't realize the copy I purchased was 1rst edition though. It's important to read the second (updated) edition.

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