Written by: Hiyaguha Cohen
August 13, 2020
- Antibiotic resistance is a major public health problem, causing at least 23,000 deaths annually in the United States and becoming increasingly fatal.
- Researchers have found that an antioxidant in green tea counteracts antibiotic resistance.
- Green tea offers many other benefits and is a worthy addition to your health program.
Prevalence of antibiotic resistance
One of the horrors of the medical world is the increasing incidence of antibiotic-unresponsive infections as the infectious agents have "learned" how to resist antibiotics against these infections. We could offer many reasons to object to the established medical establishment's over-reliance on antibiotics, but the fact is that antibiotics can certainly be useful in curing deadly diseases and preventing pandemics. Just a few decades ago, we could claim that diseases like gonorrhea were no longer a major threat to the public as antibiotic prescriptions were a simple cure, but the increasing development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens is undermining this progress.
You've likely seen articles about antibiotic-resistant MRSA staphylococci spreading in hospitals and killing patients, but MRSA is just the tip of the antibiotic-resistant iceberg. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), antibiotic resistance is currently one of the greatest public health challenges.
"In the United States, at least 2 million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections each year and at least 23,000 people die," reports the CDC website. When one antibiotic fails against a particular bacterium, doctors usually try others, but some bacteria become resistant to all antibiotics.
Conditions that are increasingly difficult to cure due to antibiotic resistance
The CDC released a report in 2013 that identified the top health threats from antibiotic resistance. (A new report is planned for this year). Among the most worrying:
- Clostridioides difficile (also known as C. difficile). This strain of bacteria causes severe diarrhea and colitis, infecting approximately 150,000 patients annually in the US and killing one in ten of these patients, causing approximately 15,000 deaths in the US each year.
- Drug-resistant gonorrhea with an average of 246,000 cases per year.
- Causes of infection by Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), Acineobacter and Campolybacter. Together, these three strains of bacteria cause around 326,000 drug-resistant infections annually. Some types of CRE are resistant to all antibiotics.
- Other diseases that are becoming increasingly resistant include some forms of tuberculosis, bacterial pneumonia, typhoid, and salmonella.
Green tea and antibiotic resistance
Researchers at the University of Surrey in the UK recently published a study in the Journal of Medical Microbiology describing the success of an antioxidant found in green tea in making the antibiotic aztreonam effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Scientists were trying to find an effective way to attack the P. aeruginosa bacteria, which causes severe respiratory and bloodstream infections in approximately 6,700 Americans annually and kills about 440 people. P. aeruginosa has recently become resistant to even the latest antibiotics, including aztreonam. However, when combined with the antioxidant epigallocatechin (EGCG) from green tea, the antibiotic was strengthened and was able to overcome the bacteria. Even more so, when the combination of antibiotic and green tea was tested on human skin cells, no negative effects were observed.
Scientists believe that EGCG made the drug-resistant bacteria more permeable so that the antibiotic can penetrate them and increase absorption. They also think it could block a biochemical pathway that interferes with antibiotics.
The study director, Dr. Jonathan Betts of the University of Surrey Veterinary School said: “We urgently need to develop novel antibiotics to fight AMR (antimicrobial resistance). Natural products like EGCG used in combination with currently approved antibiotics can be a way to improve their effectiveness and clinically useful lifespan. "
Green tea, beyond antibiotic resistance
Hopefully you won't develop serious antibiotic-resistant infections, especially if you keep your immune system strong by eating well, exercising, and adding immune-building formulas and pathogen killers when needed. It certainly can't hurt to add green tea to your regime. At worst, drinking green tea along with your prescription medication can be useful, although you may need a more concentrated dose than what you can get from a cup and saucer. Be aware, however, that it will be unclear whether EGCG will work in combination with antibiotics other than those already tested or whether it will be effective against other resistant pathogens before assuming clinical benefits and consuming Sencha barrels. It is also not clear in what form or amount it would have to be consumed to be effective in infected people. Previous research has been carried out on wax moths and human skin cells. Further research clearly needs to be completed.
In the meantime, drinking green tea certainly won't hurt you. In fact, we've written before about the benefits of green tea, including reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancer and preventing tumors from recurring. These benefits are likely due to the effects of the powerful antioxidants, catechins, in green tea. Green tea is also a natural "telomerase inhibitor," which means that cancer cells are susceptible to cell death. Green tea can also prevent kidney stones, regulate blood sugar, reduce triglycerides, reverse the effects of heart disease, and protect against both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
And if green tea isn't your thing, you can always look for a full-spectrum antioxidant formula that contains concentrated green tea extract that is high in EGCG.