Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 20th 2016 Contents B34
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, October 20, 2016
When it comes to infectious pathogens, antibi-
otics are considered the first and most efficient
line of defence. While resistant bacterial strains
are becoming more and more common and dan-
gerous, we have learned to rely entirely on synthetic
or natural formulations to protect human health.
Commercial products, like toothpastes, soaps and
household cleaners are also loaded with antimi-
crobial compounds in an effort to prevent microbes
But what if there are simple and practically free
ways to maintain health and prevent disease?
Decades-old research proves that some of the most
dangerous pathogenic culprits hardly need sophis-
ticated ways to be controlled.
Experiments conducted in the midst of cold war
showed that pathogenic bacteria cannot survive if
exposed unprotected in fresh air. Microbiologists
Hendry Druett and KR May found out that within
two hours the vast majority of E coli colonies were
dead, after being exposed to air currents outside of
their lab. Conversely, if the same bacteria were kept
confined in boxes at identical temperature and
humidity conditions, but still outside of the lab,
more than 50 per cent of them survived.
When the cold war threats faded away, so did
these remarkable experiments, or at least so we are
told. Florence Nightingale, the famous British nurse,
reportedly slashed hospital death rates by applying
simple methods, such as throwing the windows
open. Her principles regarding appropriate arrange-
ment in hospital wards, led to the Nightingale wards.
These long and narrow rooms had windows reaching
up to the ceiling, allowing fresh air to circulate
The long sides of the rooms were facing south,
which additionally let in as much sunshine in as
possible. The health benefits of sunlight became
widely recognised for tuberculosis patients, for
whom UV light was considered standard therapy
before the widespread use of antibiotics. Like fresh
air, sunlight not only kills directly pathogens, but
improves body defences by boosting vitamin D pro-
duction in the body, a mighty anti-microbial and
anti-inflammatory substance. Air renewal in hos-
pitals now is accomplished through mechanical
ventilation systems, which recycle and filter existing
air. Since the 70s, the need for energy efficiency
does not allow opening windows or giving priority
to let healing sun rays in the hospital rooms. This
has certainly played a role in the widespread problem
of resistant pathogens currently thriving in hospi-
The number and variety of such super microbial
strains have increased so dramatically in the last
decades that hospitals are now considered one of
the biggest sources of antibiotic-resistant diarrhoea
and wound infections. Common bacteria, such as
Staphylococcus aureus have evolved to form an
army of super-resistant strains, such as MRSA
(Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which
are responsible for persistent hospital infections.
Apart from the lack of fresh, clean air and sunlight,
the widespread of antibiotics is also a main driving
force behind this bacterial evolution.
Back to basics
The pressure created by this new generation of
resistant pathogens has pushed for new and cost-
effective ways to battle hospital infections. Getting
hospital staff to wash their hands is another old
fashioned method revived in an effort to reduce
difficult hospital infections. This simple step alone
dramatically reduced MRSA rates in UK hospitals
by 80 percent within the last decade.
The World Health Organization recommends
access to fresh air for all health care settings as an
efficient way to reduce the transmission of infections.
"Natural ventilation can be one of the effective
environmental measures to reduce the risk of spread of
infections in health care"
. These simple methods show that
killing microbes is not strictly a matter of using adequate
antibiotics or antimicrobial substances; quite the opposite.
(Eleni Roumeliotou/Mother Earth News)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
A simple thing like fresh air and sunlight can kill many pathogenic bacteria.
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