What’s Bugging You this Mother’s Day?

Posted on May 09, 2014

"Mommy Bloggers are widespread, but nothing deserves the “ubiquitous” label more than bacteria."

Driving into work this morning, I was listening to an interview inspired by Mother’s Day.  The radio hosts were talking to a Mommy Blogger (apologies for not recalling her name).  What amazed me was a statistic that was given indicating that there is something like 4.2 million Mommy Bloggers in North America alone. Wow, I thought. They’re everywhere!  They’re ubiquitous! The interviewee went on to describe how What’s Bugging You this Mother’s Day? eColivery helpful these blog posts can be when caught up in the seemingly endless challenge that is parenting but also how incredibly harsh and hurtful some can turn when your views and objectives are not aligned.  Not being a parent I can only imagine.  Then I arrive at work and am immersed (pun intended) once again in the world of safe drinking water and ultraviolet water treatment systems and zapping bacteria.

Bacteria.  Now those little devils are ubiquitous.  As a regular Scrabble player (geek, I know), I have a passion for words.  And this is a great one meaning “present, appearing or found everywhere”.  And while the Mommy Bloggers are widespread, nothing deserves the “ubiquitous” label more than bacteria.  Simply put, these are microscopic living organisms with an incredible talent for survival.  But there is absolutely nothing simple about them.

ecoli water pathogenTake for instance, Escherichia coli - affectionately known as E. coli – purportedly the most-studied bacterium and we still don’t know the half of it.  [This according to another very interesting blog post I read recently entitled “It came from the faucet”.]  There are hundreds of species of E.coli living all around us – in the soil, on the dog, on the countertop you cleaned mere moments ago and yes, quite likely, in your drinking water.  In fact, some 40-50 species make a permanent home in our guts.  And for the most part that’s not a problem because in the end there are only a few that are dangerous – the pathogens.  But change the environment or the balance and watch out!   Diarrhea, urinary tract infections, blood stream infections, and more.   In 2000, the water supply of a small Ontario community became contaminated with E.coli and campylobacter sickening half the community and sadly resulting in several deaths.  An article in the New Yorker, “The E.coli Made Me Do It”, cites a study that examined those infected in the Walkerton Crisis and found a higher incidence of depression and anxiety than in the remaining populace.  Seems given the right circumstances, those bad bacteria will get you in oh so many ways.

And how do we respond.  Antibiotics - of course.  Done. Gone.  Not so fast.  The World Health Organization just released a report on Antimicrobial Resistance which demonstrates, quite frankly, that the bugs are out-smarting us.  I alluded to the talent for survival of bacteria, well add to the list viruses, parasites and fungi - they have all adapted to our drug-based assault and our weapons are becoming less and less effective.   This inevitable outcome was predicted by Alexander Fleming – the inventor of penicillin – back in 1945.  The microbes continue to adapt but we do not.  I was shocked to learn that no new classes of anti-microbial drugs have been developed since the 1980s.  I was equally shocked to read the WHO prediction “Without urgent action we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill”.

The solution it seems is not solely the domain of scientists and the “pharmaceutical giants”.  The solution it seems rests with each and every one of us.  Stop infections before they start. pathogen-cell-water4

  • Better Hygiene
  • Access to Clean Drinking Water and Sanitation
  • Infection Control in Healthcare Facilities
  • Vaccination.

Let me park on the second one – clean drinking water.   While this obviously and absolutely applies to developing nations, it is relevant here in North America too.   First, and foremost, to the 15 million or more households that relies on a private water supply.  Not testing your well regularly or worse dismissing the presence of coliforms because they are only an “indicator organism” and not themselves harmful is a risky game.  They INDICATE that your water supply could readily become contaminated with pathogens.  Do you want to take that chance?  Engage in proper well stewardship and while I’m ranting, proper septic system maintenance.  And then, tip the odds in your favor and install continuous disinfection – like an ultraviolet system.

And for those of us, who sit back and let the municipality “clean” our drinking water.  NEWS FLASH.  Researchers are proving that the water that leaves the treatment facility is markedly different than that which runs from your household tap.  And to be clear, we’re talking about the array of micro-organisms present.  But flowing through those countless (and now aging and deteriorating) miles of pipes was bound to be a risk and hence the mandated chlorine residual.  Only bacteria can evade a disinfectant like chlorine – by slipping inside a protozoan cyst for example.  Again, the best place to treat your water is in your home.   A point-of-entry ultraviolet system inactivates any pathogens present and protects your family at every tap.

Bacteria – the good, the bad and the ugly.  They’re all out there.  Surrounding us, like the many voices of the Mommy Bloggers. Fighting anti-microbial resistance is paramount.  Preventing infections, as with a safe water supply, is one action for all.   But should those bugs get the best of you…remember when taking antibiotics, complete your prescription.  And that too, is a message I hope will be spread throughout the Mom Blogosphere.