When I hear dire predictions about the final days of antibiotics, I shake my head, knowing it’s only half true. Yes, one day big pharma’s arsenal of antibiotic drugs will completely stop working against ever-adapting superbugs.
But that doesn’t mean we will run out of natural agents that can kill bacteria. In fact, one new natural antibiotic agent comes from the unlikeliest of places: your nose.
Take a breath of fresh air
Your respiratory tract is a close-ended, branching system open to the outside environment through the air you breathe. The tract’s surface area is huge—about the size of a tennis court. So there’s lots of room to encounter inhaled microbes and other particles.
With normal breathing, air enters through the nose. The nose warms, moisturizes and filters the air. But it turns out the nose does much more to protect us from airborne microbes.
Scientists discovered a type of bacteria living inside the human nose produces a natural antibiotic that can kill deadly antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).1
The CDC estimates MRSA caused more than 80,000 infections and more than 11,000 deaths during 2011 alone, the most recent year for which data is available. (Five-year-old data in the era of high-speed computers, big government screening, and the much-vaunted electronic medical record!) But MRSA only responds to a desperate, last-line of antibiotics. And those are failing fast.
Science that passes the sniff test
It makes sense that we should turn back to the natural world in this next era to fight against deadly bacteria, as the first true antibiotic discovered nearly a century ago also came from Nature. The first penicillin came from a fungal microbe that produces it naturally in order to compete with other microbes in the soil.
Unfortunately, mainstream medicine had all but forgotten the wonders of the natural world to fight infection, once big pharma started making synthetic antibiotics. But the new MRSA research came from Germany, which accepts all manner of natural treatments as safe and effective based on historic use.
The German researchers tested this natural nasal antibacterial substance, which they named lugdunin, on mice to cure skin infections by staph bacteria. They also found lugdunin offers potent antibiotic activity against a wide range of other bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains such as MRSA and resistant Enterococcus.
Among the 187 hospitalized patients the researchers found who carried lugdunin in their noses, only 6% also carried Staph aureus, compared with 34% of patients without lugdunin.
Only about 10% of the general population carries lugdunin, while 30% carry Staph aureus. (There are probably other natural antibiotics in the nose as well, which explains why 70% of the population don’t carry Staph aureus.)
The nose knows what big pharma doesn’t
Big pharma continues to look in all the wrong places for solutions to antibiotic-resistant superbugs—mainly in their synthetic chemical labs.
And the government has nothing to offer other than another “permanent war” against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “General” Anthony Fauci, the government director-for-life of the NIH institute for infectious diseases, leads this so-called war. President Bush (that is, the first President Bush, back when he was running for president in 1988) also lauded Dr. Fauci for his so-called war against HIV. Another unwinnable war. But Fauci is still there, most recently holding out false promises for Zika.
We should be looking for solutions within the human body itself, and at the billions of bacteria naturally present there, in particular. These bacteria are obviously compatible with human metabolism and physiology, so they won’t create yet another synthetic antibiotic drug disaster of toxic side effects. Plus, the German researchers observed lugdunin isn’t prone to promoting antibiotic-resistance.
Of course, the researchers said they’re excited to work with big pharma to develop a new drug based on lugdunin, which will take many years.
But nobody is researching how to support the nose for natural production of lugdunin (just like we can do with probiotic-rich foods for the GI tract). At the very least, perhaps we could recommend making sure moisture levels in your home are sufficient. Running a humidifier is a good idea if your environment is very dry, which will help keep nasal passages moist and healthy.
As they say, the nose knows. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.
You can also help ward off flu viruses, superbugs, and other infections by boosting your immune system with a daily B vitamin complex, 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily, and a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables from the fall harvest.
1“Human commensals producing a novel antibiotic impair pathogen colonization.” Nature. 2016 Jul 27;535(7613):511-6.