by Dennis MD, PhD, Capt USN (Ret) and Carolyn Johnson, RN
United States -(AmmoLand.com)- At the risk of boring the reader, here are some facts we'd like to pass along about adventures in the boonies.
Bacteria rapidly adapt to harsh conditions because they can reshuffle their genes in a flash because they replicate in minutes. Moreover, once they have achieved the correct genetic recombination that solves their environmental problem , they can readily transfer those genes to their neighbors. This capability has allowed them to exploit every seemingly uninhabitable ecosystem imaginable. They flourish everywhere from nuclear reactor cooling systems to barrels of crude oil.
Similarly, the in-discriminant use of antibiotics has generated resistant bacteria. First in hospitals, where MRSA , an antibiotic-resistant pathogen, emerged. It didn't stop there. Many more microbes have acclimated to antibiotics while the development of new antibacterial agents lags behind their adaptive powers.
Currently, the risk of contracting an antibiotic-resistant infection in our communities is approaching that only once seen in hospitals. How could this happen?
The proven method of producing microbial resistance is to expose the bugs to a low concentration of antibiotic. Killing microorganisms requires a sludge hammer dose of antibiotics to stop dead any possibility of genetic revival because nonlethal levels encourage the critters to divide and conquer. That's what's happening in today's countryside.
Just go to any Farm and Home store and you can buy front-line antibiotics for your pets without a prescription and most livestock feeds contain antibiotics as a “growth factor”. Animals, in turn, excrete these reagents into our environment. In fact, our soil , streams and lakes are fast becoming contaminated by low concentrations of our best antibiotics . As I have documented, a perfect set-up for generating resistant species.
So what is the take home message here? A hunter traversing the backwoods through brush and over barbwire fences commonly suffers nicks, cuts and abrasions not to mention insect bites. That's where the problem can start.
Years ago one could barefoot through chicken coop droppings with little threat of infection. But now, livestock excreta is a dilute soup of antibiotics laced with resistant bacteria. Stubbing your toe in the barnyard isn't as safe these days.
There's some nasty bugs out there and even though the probability is still low for contracting a resistant infection, why take a chance?
We've seen bad infections that too often begin with what the victim considers a “minor” injury. It makes good sense to treat all skin disruptions with respect. They should be thoroughly cleaned as soon as possible and bandaged securely after applying an over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointment.
Puncture wounds are especially problematic because they may be impossible to cleanse properly. These wounds are deeper and encourage another group of organisms that multiply under low oxygen conditions. So called “flesh-eating” bacteria get their start in these penetrating wounds. Gangrene and tetanus are serious infections caused by this group. Good reason to keep your tetanus inoculations current. Anytime a wound becomes red, hot, and swollen, especially with a fever, it's time to seek medical attention. Such lesions may require surgical treatment to avert more serious complications.
Obviously, it is necessary to wear appropriate protective clothing when out in the sticks but, in spite of that, if you suffer a minor injury, treat it promptly. Don't take antibiotics for a cold or the flu because they do not kill viruses. If you take an antibiotic, complete the prescribed course and don't stop when you start to feel better. Don't take a few left over antibiotic pills from a friend when you're feeling bad. All these examples potentially expose an infection to a nonlethal dose of antibiotics.
We hope the reader has a better appreciation for the necessity to promptly attend to inadvertent wounds incurred during treks to the boondocks.