Over the next few weeks, we are pleased to share a series of posts taken from the article titled: “Antibiotics: 21st Century Time Bomb” by Keith Wassung. This series focuses on the issues caused by overuse of antibiotics in today’s society. Last week’s article explained more about the way antibiotics work against bacteria. This week’s post focuses on the way antibiotics are (over)prescribed in both animals and humans and the effects of antibiotic overuse. 

Part 3: Antibiotics – The Effects of Antibiotic Overuse

Woman sick in bed blowing her nose ANTIBIOTICS & COLDS

Many people go to their doctors and request antibiotics when they have a cold. Antibiotics have no effect on the vast majority of colds that are viral in nature and toxic side effects often occur.

Taking antibiotics for colds are is not only dangerous, but also a tremendous waste of time and financial resources, a fact that has been repeated by many leading scientists and health care authorities.

Antibiotics are still being prescribed widely to treat the common cold, despite evidence that they are completely ineffective against colds and flu viruses. Such indiscriminate use of antibiotics has created a serious problem involving bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.1



Cow in a chute getting an antibiotic treatment The livestock industry is a major source of the antibiotic overuse that has led to bacterial resistance. IT ALONE PURCHASES OVER ONE-HALF OF ALL ANTIBIOTICS SOLD. The drugs are incorporated into feed in order to kill bacteria that stunt the growth of animals. However, this gives resistant bacteria the opportunity to develop and multiply. As a result, when you eat these animals, you become infected with the resistant strains. Cooking the meat will kill the bacteria, but the antibiotic remains in the flesh and is absorbed into your bloodstream when the meat is consumed.


Who's hogging our antibiotics? Up to 70% of US antibiotics go to farm animals that aren't sick         List of antimicrobial drugs approved for use in food-producing animals: 2009 sales and distribution data reported by drug class


Magazine covers “Infections caused by resistant microorganisms often fail to respond to conventional treatment, resulting in prolonged illness and greater risk of death. About 440 000 new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) emerge annually, causing at least 150 000 deaths.” 2

Adverse events from antibiotics cause an estimated 142,000 emergency department visits per year in the United States.3

“Penicillin-resistant pneumonia is on the rise and most cases have occurred in people who have had recent antibiotic therapy. In 2010, deaths from pneumonia outnumbered those from automobile accidents.” 4
The Informed Consumer’s Pharmacy

Diagram of outer, middle, and inner ear“Antibiotic therapy is not an effective treatment against otitis media (ear infection) and rates of recurrent infection are significantly higher in children who have been treated with antibiotics.” 5
Journal of the AMA

“Chronic middle ear problems in children have not diminished, despite the number of antibiotics being used to treat them. We have created a whole new kind of ear problem. We have used antibiotics so excessively in the 1st year of life that we have depressed the development of the child’s immune system” 6
Walter Belenky, M.D.

When the Best Medication for Kids Is No Medication at All

If you ask long enough for antibiotics for your children’s viral infections, chances are your doctor might just prescribe them — even though the doctor knows antibiotics won’t help your child get better. Antibiotics don’t work for viruses and may put a child at risk for side effects, but many times children receive the medication anyway. Physicians will prescribe antibiotics for viral infections 62 percent of the time when asked by a patient, and only seven percent of the time when they think a patient does not want it, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Common scenarios where antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed to children include some sinus infections, coughs and some ear infections. Children are more likely to suffer side effects such as diarrhea and abdominal pain from antibiotics. In addition, using antibiotics for ear infections may increase the likelihood of getting another ear infection, according to a recent British Medical Journal study. When antibiotics do become necessary for bacterial infections, the treatment may not work for some children who have used the medication too often. While antibiotics are needed to treat bacterial infections, drug-resistant bacteria are a growing problem worldwide. 7




  1.  Lemonick, Michael, “The Killers All Around”, Time Sept 12, 1994, p. 83-84
  2. AP, “Study says doctors overuse antibiotics.” Charleston Post and Courier Sept 17, 1997 P. 3A
  3. Consumers Guide to Medical Treatment p. 105
  4. Begley, S. (1994, March 28). “The End of Antibiotics.” Newsweek, pp. 47-51.
  5. ScienceDaily. February 3, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com
  6. Brown, E. The Informed Consumers Pharmacy, 1990 Carrol & Graf, 1994
  7. Starfield, B. Powe, N. “Cost vs. quality in different types of health care settings” Journal of the AMA, Vol. 272, #24, Dec 18, 1991