With the recent events concerning the contamination of various foods with dangerous bacteria, it is important for us to understand some basic facts surrounding this problem.

"E. coli," properly termed Escherichia coli is a type of bacteria commonly found in the human intestinal tract and in human feces. Rarely causing problems, it has theretofore been used as a marker to indicate the contamination of water of food with human feces, and hence the potential dangers that might accompany the presence of human feces in our food and water supply.

The E. Coli that is being spoken of by the media these days is an entirely different story. This E. Coli is only one of several mutant varieties of bacteria that are both pathogenic (disease causing) and antibiotic-resistant. Correctly, it is given the distinction of the special title "E. coli 0157; H7."

The historical perspective for the formation of this type of pathogenic resistant bacteria is as follows:

As early as the mid-1950's, antibiotics were being fed to farm animals for the purpose of faster weight gain with less feed (its effectiveness for this purpose has never been proven.) And, it is important to know that this procedure was not for the purpose of disease control! In 1963, the World Health Organization warned of possible "sensitivity problems" from this practice. In 1965, two British scientists Drs. E.S. Anderson and M.J. Lewis warned that this practice might cause the development of resistant, pathologic bacterial species. (New Scientist, Feb. 8, 1968). In 1971 four researchers in the Department of Bacteriology, St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, reported that resistant strains were already turning up in humans. (The Lancet; July 3, 1971). In 1971 The Wall Street Journal reported in a front page story "Stubborn Germs; Increasing Resistance of Bacteria to Drugs Causes New Concerns. Cells Able to Pass Immunity from One to Another. Most Drugs are Affected. Like a Science Fiction Story." (Wall Street Journal; Feb. 3, 1971). By 1982, pharmaceutical firms were producing 35,000,000 lbs of antibiotics each year. Fully 1/2 of those were fed to farm animals (that figure is probably much higher now). In 1983, the serious spread of a resistant strain of salmonella bacteria was recognized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and was traced by them to a farm in the Mid-West. (Washington Post; September 6, 1984).

Outbreaks of E. coli 0157; H7 began occurring in the US in 1982 and have been happening since then at ever more alarming rates. The CDC considers the current outbreak to be at almost epidemic proportions.

To the present date, the practice of using antibiotics for weight gain purposes has not been curtailed, nor is there any sign that it will be curtailed in the near future. Indeed, when reporting news about E. coli 0157; H7 by the media, the true problem has never been stated nor the culprits named. Blame has been placed on fast food restaurants and on meat packing plants, but the meat being delivered to them is already tainted. These organisms are now ubiquitous.

In a special report recently on television, it was released that yet another common, typically non-pathogenic bacteria has mutated. This one is called Staphylococcus aureus. It too, poses perhaps an even greater threat than E. coli 0157; H7 if it gets into the food chain. Yet, nothing is being done to stop the main cause of this problem...namely the unwarranted dangerous practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock to increase weight gain. The agricultural antibiotic market we are referring to is currently worth several hundred million dollars each year!

A Typical scenario of sickness and/or death can be as follows:

1. Host eats tainted "undercooked" meat containing dangerous bacteria.

2. Host may become mildly to seriously ill with intestinal symptoms.

3. Host may seem to recover in time as the pathologic bacteria are held in check by competition from other friendly intestinal organisms.

4. Host takes antibiotics orally for any number of other health reasons.

5. Antibiotics kill most of the friendly bacteria in the colon, but cannot affect the resistant ones.

6. With no competition, these pathogenic bacteria multiply rapidly, secreting toxins.

7. Host becomes severely ill with bloody diarrhea, hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), and may die.


It is vitally important to understand that if a person is infected by one of these organisms, taking oral antibiotics may be extremely dangerous! If, for example, you did consume some tainted food and got mildly ill but are now feeling fine, you may still be harboring the bacteria. Those dangerous bacteria can then multiply rapidly if all of the competitive organisms are killed by an antibiotic!

A much more rational approach, would be to increase the intestinal competition to those harmful bacteria. This can be accomplished by eating large amounts of acidophilus and yogurt products. The naturally acid secretions from these "good" bacteria will eventually rid your body of the pathologic, dangerous ones, or at least hold them in check. We must understand the dangers inherent in feeding antibiotics to farm animals. Furthermore, we all should contact our legislators and urge them to institute legislation to condemn and stop this practice now, before we have some truly unstoppable, catastrophic epidemics.

Frank J. Trapani, DC
American Chiropractic Clinic
1618 Isaacs
Walla Walla, WA 99362 USA

(Reprint, Townsend Letter For Doctors & Patients, November 1997)

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

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