News Stories

Superbug Battle

Human beings are SWARMING with bacteria: Even the average healthy adult plays host to about 100 trillion microscopic organisms. Infection takes place when the bacteria get out of hand?especially when they become superbugs. But help is at hand: Mud may be coming to a drug store near you?but not just any mud: special GREEN mud.

Researcher Lester A. Mitscher is calling for the development of more potent antibiotics necessary for humanity to manage drug-resistant breeds of microbes. He says, "Antibiotics are essentially selective poisons that kill bacteria and that do not kill us."

"[Antibiotics are] called 'miracle drugs,''' says Mitscher. "Unfortunately, that [has] a downside. They [are] so relatively safe and so effective that we became careless in their use?That has caused much of the resistance phenomenon we have today. Bacteria that survive the initial onslaught of antibiotics then are increasingly resistant to them. The sensitive proportion of the bacterial population dies, but then the survivors multiply quickly?and they are less sensitive to antibiotics. The sensitivity goes all the way from requiring a longer course of therapy or a higher dose, to being totally unaffected by the antibiotic."

To make things worse, humans have overused antibiotics in areas such as agriculture, worsening the dilemma of highly resistant bacteria. Mitscher says, "People are surprised to learn that almost half of all the antibiotics produced in the world are used in animal husbandry. I'm not referring to using antibiotics for curing infections of animals?what I mean is use of antibiotics in relatively small doses as an animal-feed supplement. Animals then grow quicker to a marketable size, and this is seen as a universal good. The difficulty is that use of antibiotics in that setting is an invitation towards resistance (this means superbugs!) Unfortunately, humans get infected with resistant strains that were generated in animals in this manner."

Clay to the rescue! Minerals from clay could form the basis of a new generation of inexpensive, highly-effective antibiotics for fighting superbug infections that are moving out of hospital and into the community.

Unlike conventional antibiotics that are often administered by injection or pills, the so-called "healing clays" could be used as rub-on creams or ointments to keep MRSA infections from spreading. The clays also show promise against a wide range of other harmful bacteria, including those that cause skin infections and food poisoning, so you may soon see DIRT for sale in your local drug store!

Clays have been used for thousands of years as a remedy for infected wounds, indigestion, and other health problems, either by applying clay to the skin or eating it. Today, clays are commonly used at health spas in the form of mud baths and facials. Researchers are beginning to explore their health claims scientifically.

Researcher Lynda Williams says, "Clays are little chemical drug-stores in a packet. They contain literally hundreds of elements. Some of these compounds are beneficial but others aren?t. Our goal is to find out what nature is doing and see if we can find a better way to kill harmful bacteria."

Photo credit: Arizona State University, John C. Phillips

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