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When Germs Fight Back

When Germs Fight BackA Tufts expert says the more that Americans fight germs, the worse the situation becomes.

Boston [05.03.01] While high powered antibiotics and heavy-duty cleansers may seem like the best way to get the upper hand on germs, they may actually be making the situation worse. According to a Tufts scientist, today's germs are very resistant and may actually be adapting to antibiotics faster than we can produce new ones.

Overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial cleansers are at the heart of the problem, says Tufts' Dr. Stuart Levy -- a nationally renowned expert on the subject. The widespread use of these products "could be promoting super bugs that might otherwise be kept in check," he told the Chicago Tribune.

In fact, a new study shows that even the newest antibiotics are failing -- most notably, Zyvox, a newly approved synthetic drug that attacks germs in a whole new way. The Tribune reports that while scientists hoped bacteria would have a much harder time adapting to Zyvox, they have already grown resistant.

"It's disturbing because this is the first structurally new antibiotic in the last 35 years," Levy said.

Levy said the American fixation on wiping out germs may be making the population more vulnerable to a whole host of health problems. By trying to kill "bad" bacteria, he said we are killing "good" bacteria at the same time.

"The vast majority of bacteria are out there serving a purpose for us," Levy said in the LA Times. "They help our intestinal tract mature, and they help our immune system mature."

This is especially true in children.

According to the Tufts scientist, if children don't have enough exposure to germs, their immune systems have a harder time fighting pollen or dust.

"It's just like a child needs exercise to build strong bones and muscles," Levy told the Chicago Tribune. "A child's immune system needs its own workout to develop a normal resistance to infections."

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