By Clark Zimmerman, LAc.
Bacteria gets a bad rap. After all, they are responsible for causing so many frightening and terrible situations. They cause many cases of bronchitis or pneumonia which can lead to miserable days spent on the couch, hospitalization, or even death. They also cause tuberculosis which kills millions of people each year. Bacteria can create the agony of food poisoning, and of coarse, there is the rare but sensationalized flesh eating bacteria that seems to be straight out of a horror movie. While bacteria can cause a wide variety of problems, they also provide many benefits to humans and other living things. Bacteria are believed to be the oldest forms of life on the planet. Science suggests that long before there were plants and animals, bacteria were thriving and evolving. They play important roles in digestion, fermentation, and in the the process of decay. Without bacteria, life on our planet would not exist.
In 1945 penicillin became the first commercially available antibiotic. It dramatically changed the way bacterial infections were treated. Simple infections that previously had been extremely problematic or even fatal, now were being treated with great ease. There were some that believed we would eventually eradicate bacterial infections once and for all. After penicillin was discovered, many other antibiotics followed. Though they have succeeded in greatly reducing the complications of bacterial infections, they have not been the panacea that some expected they would be. In fact, wide spread antibiotic use in medicine and agriculture has begun to create strains of bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics. These so called “superbugs” are becoming more of concern, as some experts predict, that we will soon create a situation where many widely used antibiotics will be ineffective. To further complicate the problem, very few new antibiotics are being developed because they are not as profitable as pharmaceuticals such as statins which people take daily for life.