True. Although they can sometimes provide quick temporary relief, antibiotics can often make chronic or recurrent ear infections worse in the long run.
A review of the scientific literature on the use of antibiotics for the treatment of otitis media (middle ear infections) was conducted by a group of eight researchers from Britain, the Netherlands and the United States. Their results were reported in the British Medical Journal (BMJ 315(7100):98-102). The study was funded by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Antibiotics for Ear Infections?
This important study compared the limited use of antibiotics for acute ear infections as practiced in the Netherlands and Iceland, with the abundant use of antibiotics as routinely prescribed in the U.S. and Britain. Otitis media is the most common reason for outpatient antibiotic use in the U.S. with approximately 30 percent of children under age three receiving such treatment for earache each year. The Netherlands, on the other hand, does not include antibiotic use in their initial routine treatment of otitis media.
The authors note that the policy of the Netherlands and Iceland is associated with a "decreased emergence of resistance among organisms commonly found in otitis media" among their children. In other words, there are fewer antibiotic-resistant microorganisms, or "super germs" as they are commonly called, in these countries as compared to the U.S. and Britain. This conclusion will not come as a surprise to scientists, but as the paper continues, some findings are revealed that are even more astonishing. The authors continue by addressing some very important questions about antibiotic use for otitis media:
Does Antibiotic Treatment Improve Outcome for Otitis Media?
"[W]e conclude that the benefit of routine antimicrobial use for otitis media, judged by either short or long-term outcomes, is unproved."
Does Antibiotic Treatment Prevent Complications?
"Although preventing mastoiditis and meningitis is a rationale for antimicrobial treatment, little evidence exists that routine treatment is effective for this purpose."
Do Children at High Risk Benefit from Antibiotics?
"No study has addressed whether antimicrobial treatment decreases the frequency of these in all or some of those known risk factors."
What is the Optimal Type and Duration of Administration of the drugs?
"In the nine country study, antimicrobials did not improve outcome at two months, and no differences in rates of recovery were found for either antimicrobial type or duration."
In conclusion, the authors state, "we conclude that existing research offers no compelling evidence that children with acute otitis media routinely given antimicrobials [antibiotics] have a shorter duration of symptoms, fewer recurrences, or better long-term outcomes than those who do not receive them."
It's hard to believe that for decades these drugs have been poured down our children without research to support their use. And despite what we know, the practice has not improved! But what harm, other than the obvious financial one, has this indiscriminate use of antibiotics caused?
In the initial paragraph of the same paper, the authors quote an article that appeared in Science (1992:257;1036-8) entitled, "The crises of antibiotic resistance":
"Increasing worldwide resistance of bacteria to antimicrobial drugs is causing a crises manifested by higher morbidity, mortality and costs."
The Immune System
After its discovery in the early part of the 20th century, penicillin was hailed as a "miracle drug." Today, as a consequence of its overuse and the resulting emergence of antibiotic-resistant germs, penicillin is practically powerless against germs. Medical scientists have developed stronger and stronger antibiotics, which has led to "super germs" and a "crisis" situation, as many concerned scientists are calling it. Why has this been allowed to continue? Because the drug companies, who make billions of dollars each year with antibiotic sales, are spending millions of dollars mass marketing their drugsbrainwashing both doctors and parents.
In our awe of "miracle drugs," many of us have forgotten about the real miracles that take place in our bodies every day, including the body's "natural antibiotics"the white blood cells that silently and tirelessly kill and consume viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells that have invaded our bodies. (See the lesson on the Immune System.)
Consistent with today's new "natural health" care paradigm, many people are taking another look at traditional and natural ways of combating disease. Herbal nutrition for the immune system is gaining popularity as a valid alternative. We will discuss this topic further in the next section of this lesson which deals with nutritional supplementation.
The key to health has nothing to do with drugs, but with . . .
the natural immunity of the body.
(Select the best answer and click on the "Continue" button.)