Thursday, August 31, 2006

Microbiology 101 (geeky post alert)

Here are some little-known facts I came across in the course of my education. These are all true, and your GP and friendly neighbourhood pharmacy (not to mention the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry I used to work in) are as guilty of perpetrating the myths as much as any lay person is. Well, except #4.

Myth #1: Drinking alcohol while on antibiotics makes you get drunker, faster.

Truth: OK, everyone knows the one about antibiotics having no effect on viruses. And if you don't, you do now - for Christ's sake don't let your doc prescribe you antibiotics for a cold or anything else viral.

Anyway, alcohol and antibiotics can be taken together with no adverse side-effects. The reason you got drunk so quickly is more likely to be because your immune system is already compromised in some way if you're taking the damn antibiotics, and you're exhausted from trying to fight off the infection. Therefore, drinking alcohol's going to have a greater effect than normal on you. But don't use the fucking antibiotics as an excuse for why you sucked off the dorky IT guy who's now obsessed with you. The responsibility is yours, fucker.

Myth #2: People who complain that they're dying of the flu in the middle of the summer.

Truth: First, if you've got the flu, you would not be out and about to complain about it. You'd be in bed, or at the very least, wrapped up in front of a fire at home. Influenza is a seriously debilitating illness that takes about a fortnight to recover from. Second, in the Northern Hemisphere, the influenza virus is prevalent almost exclusively between January and March. There are rare exceptions, but these exceptions usually mean a flu pandemic, which means hundreds of thousands of people will be suffering and possibly die because a mutant strain of the virus has run amok. So, what I'm saying is: it's just a fucking cold, you pussy. You're not even close to death. Quit whining about it.

Myth #3: Stomach ulcers/acid indigestion are caused by excess stomach acid.

Truth: This is a cause and effect issue. In a sense, it's true to say that excess acid is what irritates the stomach lining and causes an ulcer, however, this does not deal with the root cause of the problem, which, in a huge number of cases, is actually a little family of bacteria called Helicobacter. These acid-resistant bacteria are what cause the stomach lining to be irritated in the first place, thus prompting more acid to be created, which irritates the stomach lining even more, and then out pops your agonising ulcer.

The myth that all you need to do is pop a couple of Rennie is of course a hugely profitable one for all the pharma companies, so obviously they're not going to tell you that, rather than taking these antacids for the rest of your life, all you need is a two-week course of antibiotics to get rid of your ulcers/indigestion. But, believe it or not, this is true in a very large number of cases.

Moral of the story is, if you're suffering from acid indigestion or ulcers, go see your GP. Pressurise them, because they won't be forthcoming about it, but make sure you ask them about the use of antibiotics to kill off the root cause. Doctors are at the mercy of the drug companies as much as we are, and it's always easier to prescribe a bottle of antacid. However, your GP can schedule a very simple test that can detect the presence of these nasty bacteria, and give you an answer one way or the other on whether or not they are the cause of your discomfort. Don't stop pressuring them until you get an answer. It might even put an end to your misery.

These bacteria are prevalent in domestic animals, and they can infect humans by zoonosis. Therefore if you've got a dog or cat and you also suffer from stomach ulcers, there's a possibility that Rex or Felix has passed it on to you when you've accidentally let him lick your mouth. See, knowing this shit is what makes me wary of letting dogs slobber all over me.

If you'd like further info, you could try reading my thesis "Serological and Biochemical Characterisation of Antigens on the Lipopolysaccharide of the Human Intestinal Pathogen Helicobacter heilmannii". It's a truly riveting read, honest.

Ha. Bollocks.

Myth #4: Drug companies carry out testing on animals because they enjoy hurting them.

Truth: Don't get me fucking started. Yes, I am well aware that this is a controversial issue. I worked in this field for three years but got out of it because the pay was shit.

What drives me crazy is activists who think that the use of animals in the development of a drug is unnecessary. We are fucking years away from any sort of reliable testing using genetic engineering to model a human metabolic response.

Let me put it into perspective: a drug takes about 12 years from initial discovery to actually landing on your pharmacy shelf. For every 100,000 drugs that are researched and assessed, one makes it to market. That's right. One for every hundred thousand. This is why so much money is invested in R&D in the pharma industry. The average lifespan of a drug is 12-17 years, so the pharmaceutical company spends millions and millions trying to get an appropriate drug out into the marketplace so they can make as much money as possible, fast. They spend these millions on carrying out various pharmacological tests to assess the safety and efficacy of a drug, and toxicological and pharmacokinetic tests to assess its physiological and metabolic effects. Once a huge amount of evidence has been collected to back up a drug's safety, it goes to clinical trials (ie testing in people). Once it gets through four phases of clinical trials, it goes to the FDA, where it may or may not be approved for release. If anything fucks up along the way, they lose a fuckload of money. If it gets released, they make billions.

I'm not denying the pharma companies are in it for the money; of course they are. It's a hugely profitable industry. However, it's worth noting that it's the industry which drives advances in medicine. It's the industry whose progress these fuckwit protesters have undoubtedly taken advantage of several times over the course of their lifetimes; every time they've taken a headache tablet, some antacids, blood pressure regulators, whatever.

For the industry to remain viable, the tests needed to allow the drugs to get to clinical trials must be carried out on animals first. At the moment, there is just no way around this fact. It's also worth pointing out that the animals are subject to some of the strictest legislation in the world, and they are looked after better than most animals you see in animal shelters (or in friends' and neighbours' houses) up and down the country. It's true, they die (peacefully, in most cases), but if their death can help to one day save my child, I can sleep easy at night.

If you refuse to see sense on this topic, I am not going to argue with you. I've done enough of that, and sometimes people just will not see sense no matter how much you explain things.

Just ask yourself this though: Next time I get sick, or when my father, brother, wife, mother, sister, husband, or baby is at death's door, and the only hope for saving their life is through the use of drugs developed by the pharmaceutical industry, will I have the spine to stand up for what I believe in and refuse any treatment because it compromises my principles?

Somehow, I don't think you will. So shut the fuck up, hypocrite.

Wow. This is the first time since I graduated six years ago that I feel like I've put my degree to some use.

8 Comments:

fyrchk blathered this crap:

How long is a fortnight?

So I know how long it'll take me to recover if I do get it.

DrM2B blathered this crap:

Im a vegan....been one for over 26 yrs.....the arguements U present re animal testing are bullocks......I am a firm believer in using prison inmates instead!......Put their sorry arses to some good use.....and they can try to pay back the cost that we as taxpayers put out to keep them safely away from us!

oh...and I go to a naturalpath....havent done antibiotics in over 20 yrs......still STRONGLY disagree with western medicine....and will approach eastern practitioners anytime first .....

okay...back to your homes....nothing to see here....

Kav blathered this crap:

fyrchk: Do you guys not say that? It's two weeks. ;-)

drm2b: Inmates eh? Interesting idea...

I know I kind of ranted a bit, and probably lost the thread of what I was saying somewhat...but the key thing I wanted to get across was that animal testing is not carried out with the sole purpose of hurting the animals - there is a greater goal. That said, I totally appreciate and admire your use of non-western medicine, and absolutely support its use as well. I think the way to go is a combination of both, as both of them have their merits. Apparently that approach is becoming increasingly popular in the US.

Anyway, I don't like getting too heavy on this one with friends, because it's such a sensitive subject, so I hope things are still cool with us. I was just in a very ranty mood today for various reasons, and had to vent on my blog. :-)

Summer blathered this crap:

Kav-

I wish more people like you were around. At the first sign of a sniffle, parents run kids to a doctor. No antibiotics are going to fix a cold. And a variety of other things people should tough out. Another good point that you didn't mention, is that antibiotics do have their place. People should use them only if they are sick from something very, very serious. Like the Bavarian Monkey Flu or such like. If people abuuse antibiotics during colds, a human body gets used to the meds and eventually become immune to the goodness of antibiotics. So, when you're really sick, then do no good. Antibiotics should be a last resprt and people are way too free with them.

People go into the doctor's office and REQUEST a certain type of antibiotics for kids. They know the type of dosage they want too. It's a sad day when the doctor can't say, 'Little Johnny doesn't need meds. He has a cold. Go home, have chicken soup and rest.' People get all upset and say a very mean phrase, 'If you don't give my kid somehting, I'll sue you'. I shit you not, people have said that to my husband. Stopping now, because I could go on forever about this.

Myth #2-Couln't have said it better myself. I hate people that act like P-words.

Myth #3-I love it when you talk like that! *wink* Prev-Paks! Yippee! Get it fixed people. Who wants to take a pill for the rest of thier lives?

Myth #4-

'animals are subject to some of the strictest legislation in the world'

While that may be true, there is very little enforcing the legislation over here. The amount of abuse in the system is greater than you must have. It's truly disgusting. I'm no tree hungger but, I don't believe in animal testing.

I'm with drm2b, what a great idea to test them on inmates. I can imgine that less poeple would commit crimes knowing in jail they would be subjected to injections, surgeries and creams.

I'm willing to see all sides in an argument. Esoecially since you laid yours out in a non-hostile way. I like people that agree to disagree and still be friends. I'm a lover, not a fighter.

Summer blathered this crap:

Yeah, I'm still not doing spell check. I'm using a pervy avatar for you, too. Ahhh! I'm fabulous!

Kav blathered this crap:

summer: you kick ass, girl - I'm glad we can shoot the shite about it without falling out. I was shocked to read that the legislation's not properly enforced over there - that's disgraceful. Over here, the Home Office would destroy you for any sort of infraction.

...and jeebus strike me down if I didn't get a bit of a semi from your new avatar! Thanks!

freshairlover blathered this crap:

You're fucking hysterical.

Kav blathered this crap:

debbie: My thesis was published in a medical journal (just as an abstract, mind you). I thought you'd be fanning yourself with excitement upon hearing that. :-)