Bacteria which are immune to the traditional treatments of antibiotics have become a serious issue for practitioners and the general public. Over-reliance on antibiotics by family doctors, and non-compliance by patients (usually through lack of understanding about the nature of antibiotics and bacteria) has produced infections such as Clostridium difficile, known as C. dif, which require very intensive therapies and are very resistant to treatment. It therefore makes sense for scientists to consider whether alternative therapies are of any benefit in providing an alternative to antibiotics.
Complementary therapy such as herbs may actually cheaper than conventional medications. A study comparing standard anti-depressants with St John's Wort found that the side effects of the herb were only 10 percent that of the medications, and the herb was only one-fourth the cost of the anti-depressant. (Jonas, W. 209). Treatment of Helicobacter Pylori through antibiotics is :
The side effects of antibiotics often result in a significant failure to complete the course - this has repercussions both in the duration of the illness, and the likelihood of the bacteria becoming resistant to treatment. Studies have shown that probiotics act rapidly (Mattila-Sandholm et all, 2000). In addition, it is widely acknowledged that patients are complacent about antibiotics, (Guardian 2005), and complementary therapy could provide a solution to that problem (Jonas, 208)
Alternative therapies also provide a 'holistic' treatment, though some clinicians feel that it is nonsense to claim that conventional medicine does not treat the whole person (Baum, 1988)However, there is evidence that probiotics strengthen the immune system (Kailasapathy, Chin, 82; Senok, Ismaeel, and
Botta, 959-960), providing long-term benefits for the patient. In cases where
the patient is vulnerable to infection, this may be of particular interest.
Problems with CAM
Although many people take CAM without problems, there are safety issues which mean that alternative therapy is not benign. Firstly, the herbs themselves may be toxic in large doses (Silverstein et al, 162), they may be contra-indicated with conventional medication (Silverstein, 162; Jonas 209), and generally less well regulated (Senok, 959).
There is also little hard evidence that CAM's are more effective than conventional treatments (Mattila-Sandholm, 394; Langmead, Rampton, 348), and despite some clinicians' feelings that CAM's have a beneficial effect, some studies seem to show the opposite (Gionchetti, et al, 492).
The biggest concern over the use of CAM in treating bacterial diseases, however, is the fact that many probiotics and herbal medicines are targeted at the healthy