When Antibiotics Fail

Modern medicine is losing its battle against bacteria. The original penicillin is ineffective. In hospitals and around the world superbugs have developed that are not touched by any of our antibiotics. When this happens, patients are left to fight off the invaders with only their own immune systems. Often, they succumb. The appearance of superbugs is a huge threat to our health and the days of popping an antibiotic and feeling better in a couple of days are numbered. How did we get to this point? Antibiotics are over-prescribed, patients demand them, and when they feel better, don’t finish the course. Any resistant bacteria are left to reproduce and pass along their resistance.

An old therapy which was abandoned when antibiotics proved so effective may provide a new weapon in our fight against bacteria. Bacteriophages, shown below, are viruses with a protein head and in the case of the ones shown, a “landing” tail which is specific to a species of bacteria and is used by the phage to inject its genetic material (DNA or RNA) into the cell. Once in the bacteria, its machinery is taken over and it produces more and more phages, until it bursts, is destroyed, and releases new phages. The new phages seek out more bacteria cells, inject, infect, and kill them. Cells of a human or animal are not harmed by the phages.

The purple “lunar landers” are phages on the surface of a bacterial cell.

It sounds wonderful. The best part is that phages are everywhere, the ocean, in sewage, soil; wherever bacteria are found, phages are, too. It’s not so wonderful when the actual problem of identifying a phage to attack a specific multi-drug resistant superbug, isolating it, and preparing it for human use is involved. Research is ongoing and this forgotten therapy may hold the key for the next advance against bacteria. Without a new treatment, infections will be our next health menace and millions of us may die. Before antibiotics, a simple infection was life threatening provides it.

I have included a short Youtube video that explains how bacteriophages kill bacteria. If you are interested further, ABC’s 2020 and CTV’s W5 have documentaries exploring the future of phage therapy. In the meantime, we should all limit our antibiotic use as much as we can.

After Midnight

Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I get up, pour a small glass of milk and sit in the chair by the front room window. It gives me a fine view of the street, the flashing lights at the railway crossing and occasionally, a vehicle heading home. I like to imagine they’ve been somewhere having fun. On rare nights, I even see a pedestrian, head down, and hurrying home, away from the dark.

Last night, I went to bed as usual and as can happen, I tossed and turned for an hour before getting up. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that glass of wine, or the After Eight mints, or the butter tart and it’s likely the baked beans for supper weren’t the best choice. I got my milk and went to stare out at the night. Nothing stirred. People must have been tired from Christmas festivities or stresses. Not even a train showed up.

Then, the best surprise. The prairie hare, aka a jackrabbit, hopped across the street and onto the lawn. We’d seen his tracks earlier but here he was, in the flesh. It was too dark for me to attempt a picture, but he was startling white except for his ears and despite his earlier visits was skittish. I don’t think he could see me sitting, looking out at him, but several times he stared in my direction. He stopped under the ornamental plum tree we planted in memory of my mum. Perhaps some of the plums were a snack, although I didn’t see him eat and soon he moved over to sit in the shelter of an old mogul pine. He, too, sat and peered into the night. After a few minutes, he hopped across the snow and onto the street where he sat and sniffed the car tracks. Headlights from the avenue frightened him and he bounded away. The last I saw of him was his tail as he disappeared under trees across the street.

Insomnia, even mild insomnia, is an annoyance. No one enjoys tossing and turning as sleep evades them even when they’re tired. Last night, though, I almost enjoyed it. If I had been snoring snugly in my bed, I’d never have seen my visiting hare. Tonight- no wine and no snacks. Who knows what I’ll miss?

No stoves needed…

A stock picture of a new condo in Toronto…there’s no stove. A matter of convenience? a matter of saving space? a matter of limited time? According to the Globe and Mail and other news sources, home cooking is on its way out.

Services like Skip the Dishes, Just Grub, and Uber Eats bring the food to your door. No need to spend time with all that annoying peeling, prepping, and don’t get started on the time spent in cooking. When the meal arrives, sit down and eat.

It sounds wonderful? No more shopping for ingredients. The practice of skipping buying ingredients for cooking (another time saver) is also touted as a way to cut waste…that asparagus you didn’t get around to using, that plate of leftover chili you forgot about, that wilted celery at the back of the fridge- all those kinds of things that would hit the landfill, won’t. Besides saving the environment, you’re saving money. Except that all the food brought in needs some sort of packaging. There’s the cost of the delivery, be it cab, included in the service, or by drone.

I’m old and funny and this just doesn’t sound like a good idea. I’m going to take it a step farther and draw a completely un-researched conclusion. Services like Skip the Dishes will contribute to our growing problem of obesity. Restaurant food is higher in fats, hidden sugar (because it’s cheap), and salt. Unless the portions are smaller than normal, more calories then needed are delivered. You won’t select your portion size, it’s done for you.

Home cooking does take some time but it’s healthier and with a bit of practice tastier. You have to re-train your taste buds to the subtlety of less sugar, less salt, and fat. Simple recipes and meals can be as satisfying as the latest trend in sauce-laden and fusion foods. Give it a try.

Googling kitchens without stoves results in a lot of pictures of the ranges you can buy. Some of them look like the deck of the Starship Enterprise. Perhaps no stove, no cooking, and ordering in is not a new way of life. I hope not but I am apprehensive. I understand the pressures of work, and limited time. Still there must be a better way.