By Tim Ruben Weimer
Tanja Diederen lives near Maastricht in the Netherlands. She has been suffering from Hidradenitis suppurativa for 30 years. Its a chronic skin disease in which the hair roots are inflamed under pain — often around the armpits and on the chest.
Journey Into the Unknown<p>"It tastes a bit like mushrooms," Tanja Diederen remarked as she took her morning phage dose. "When I went to Georgia, I was at first very nervous and excited, but above all disappointed about the treatment here in Holland."</p><p>After antibiotics stopped working for her, her doctor suggested that she take biopharmaceuticals, i.e. genetically engineered drugs. He had never heard of bacteriophages.</p><p>Instead, Diederen decided to look for treatment options with bacteriophages on her own, which she had heard about in a television program. </p>
The Doctor Never Heard of Phages<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA5OTMyOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDkyNzg5Mn0.qRW81FnFddQeCHblPbinr-ITYYThWMzcTkmyJHkLYXU/img.jpg?width=980" id="50ae5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9ab12b7d5efd0f615a2c891f5341dd33" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A phage model — phages are viruses, that multiply in bacteria and then destroy them.<p>She came across the <a href="http://eliava-institute.org/research/" target="_blank">Georgi-Eliava Institute</a> in Georgia, which has been researching bacteriophages since 1923 — just a few years after their discovery. Georgia has since developed into the global center of phage therapy.</p><p>During the Cold War, antibiotics were difficult to get there or anywhere in the Soviet Union. Treatment with phages was the best way to cure infectious diseases. Today, the Eliava Institute has one of the largest therapeutic collections of bacteriophages in the world.</p><p>Tanja Diederen stayed in treatment for two weeks, after which she traveled back to the Netherlands with a large suitcase full of phage tins. Since she began taking two different phages a day and applying a cream, she feels better.</p><p>She has more energy again and the small inflammations on her chest and armpits have decreased. The large inflammations come and go, but not as severe as before.</p>
"It Doesn't Feel Illegal to Me"<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA5OTMzMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjU0NDkyN30.m6j4X6PqTBv-ZDBRh63x9sycHk6LdrgT6KbJa1Lq7Tc/img.jpg?width=980" id="12346" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8800327639cc2ab041ea52667ce91e73" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Communicating with the Georgian doctors was difficult for Tanja Diederen. She needed a translator.<p>Every three months Diederen travels to Belgium — 15 kilometers away — to pick up a new ration of bacteriophages sent from Georgia for 500 euros. Her health insurance doesn't pay for this. Belgium is the only Western European country where phages are allowed. In the Netherlands, as in all other countries, they can only be used in individual cases to save lives or relieve severe pain. </p><p>Her physician is solely responsible for the application.</p><p>"It doesn't feel illegal to me," said Diederen. "I am one hundred percent sure that this medicine will help many people."</p><p>Like antibiotics, bacteriophages can also lead to bacterial resistance. Their big advantage, however, is that they are always one step ahead of the bacteria and can overcome the resistance. In addition, they are always directed against a specific type of bacteria and thus leave useful bacteria undamaged, like in the intestine, for example.</p><p>Before phage treatment, it is always necessary to determine which bacteria actually trigger the disease. The phages are then produced individually for each patient — often in Georgia.</p>
Bacteriophages Permitted in Belgium<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA5OTMzNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2ODMzNjYzOX0.NBOrxQgb5wGeSCGpuud-87UR_xPYi0_QZN9Nqm0bDpo/img.jpg?width=980" id="21c23" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9e9c2603898ec71e4d05666f26454f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Professor Jean-Paul Pirnay from the Queen-Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels works with bacteriophages.<p>Such an individual medication does not meet the applicable regulations for medicinal products in any Western European country. It would take too much effort to have each individual phage formulation approved by the authorities.</p><p>Not so in Belgium. Since last year, this process can be legally circumvented by the Scientific Health Institute, in cooperation with doctors, patients, manufacturers, pharmacists and the Belgian Federal Office for Medicinal Products, issuing a certificate for the required phage ingredients. Pharmacists will then be able to use them for the manufacture of bacteriophages, subject to certain guidelines.</p><p>"We have used the existing legal framework to insert the bacteriophages," said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Laboratory-for-Molecular-and-Cellular-Technology-Jean-Paul-Pirnay" target="_blank">Dr Jean-Paul Pirnay,</a> who works at the Queen Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels on bacteriophages.</p><p>Around 30 patients have already been treated there. Currently, the military hospital is the only place in Belgium where bacteriophages are produced.</p>
Useful Supplement to Antibiotics<p>"We need pharmaceutical companies to make the phage," says Pirnay. "A hospital can't produce all phages for a growing number of patients."</p><p>But industrial production of phages would require a clearer legal framework, and research is not yet ready.</p><p>"I believe that phages will not replace antibiotics," he said. "Both will be used together to make antibiotics more effective."</p><p>Tanja Diederen wants to continue her treatment in Brussels in the future. Communication with the Georgian doctors was difficult for her, she always needed a translator.</p><p>"I really hope that phages will soon be allowed in Europe," she said. "Going to Georgia is quite difficult and expensive."</p><p>Germany and the Netherlands are currently conducting pilot studies to see whether an individual prescription of bacteriophages would be possible. France has already imported Belgian phages and agreed to their use.</p>
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One of the most widespread bacteria known to cause serious gut infections is evolving to take advantage of high-sugar diets in the West and resist disinfecting methods used in healthcare settings.
By Jane Goodall
The world is facing unprecedented challenges. At the time of writing, the coronavirus COVID-19 has infected over 3.57 million people globally and as of the 4th of May 250,134 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Zoonotic Disease Transmission in Markets<p>When wild animals are sold in such markets, often illegally, they are typically kept in small cages, crowded together, and often slaughtered on the spot. Humans, both vendors and customers, may thus be contaminated with the fecal material, urine, blood and other bodily fluids of a large variety of species – such as civets, pangolins, bats, raccoon dogs and snakes. This provides a perfect environment for viruses to spill over from their animal hosts into humans. Another zoonotic disease, SARS, originated in another wildlife market in Guangdong.</p><p>Most <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/whats-in-a-name-wet-markets-may-hide-true-culprits-for-covid-19/" target="_blank">wet markets</a> in Asia are not dissimilar to farmers' markets in Europe and the US. There are thousands of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD5arUFkZm0" target="_blank">wet markets in Asia</a> and around the world where fresh produce – vegetables and fruit, and sometimes also meat from domestic animals – are sold at reasonable prices. And thousands of people shop there rather than in supermarkets.</p><p>It is not only in China that wildlife markets have provided the ideal conditions for viruses and other pathogens to cross the species barrier and transfer from animal hosts to us. There are markets of this sort in many Asian countries. In the bushmeat markets of Africa – where live and dead animals are sold for food – the hunting, slaughtering and selling of chimpanzees for food led to two spill overs from ape to human that resulted in the HIV-AIDS pandemic. Ebola is another zoonotic disease which crosses from animal reservoirs into apes and humans in different parts of Africa.</p>
Wildlife Trafficking and the Spread of Disease<p>Another major concern is the trafficking of wild animals and their body parts around the world. Unfortunately, this has become a highly lucrative multi-billion-dollar business, often run by criminal cartels. Not only is it very cruel and definitely contributing to the terrifying extinction of species, but it may also lead to conditions suitable for the emergence of zoonotic diseases. Wild animals or their parts exported, often illegally, from one country to another take their viruses with them.</p><p>The shocking pet trade in young wild monkeys and apes, birds, reptiles and other wild animals is another area of concern. A bite or scratch from a wild animal taken into the home could lead to something much more serious than a mild infection.</p><p>Once COVID-19 was recognized as a new <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/list/zoonotic-diseases/" target="_blank">zoonotic disease</a>, the Chinese authorities imposed a ban on the selling and eating of wild animals, the Wuhan wildlife market was closed down, and the farming of wild animals for food was forbidden.</p><p>There are thousands of small operations throughout Asia and other parts of the world where wild animals are bred for food as a way of making a living in rural areas. Unless alternative sources of income for these people, as well as for others exploiting wildlife to make a living, can be found and they can get help from their governments during their transition to other ways of making money, it is likely that these operations will be driven underground and become even more difficult to regulate.</p><p>Nevertheless, whatever the problems, it is clearly of great importance that the ban on trading, eating and breeding of wild animals for food should be permanent and enforced – for the sake of human health and the prevention of other pandemics in the future. Fortunately, a majority of Chinese and other Asian citizens who responded to surveys agree that wildlife should not be consumed, used in medicine or for their fur.</p>
Medicinal Products Loopholes and Bear Bile<p>The use of some wild animal products for traditional medicine is thus far still legal in China (though rhino horn and tiger bones are banned). And this creates a loophole that will be quickly seized on by those wanting to continue to trade in wild animals such as the highly endangered pangolin, rhinos, tigers and the Asiatic black bear, known commonly as the Moon Bear because of the crescent-shaped white marking on its chest.</p><p>Other Asian bears – brown bears and Sun bears – are also exploited for their bile. And so long as farming bears for their bile is legal, and products containing their bile is promoted, this will stimulate the demand for the bile.</p><p>It is important to consider the welfare of the animals who are unwittingly responsible for zoonotic diseases. Today we know that all the animals mentioned are sentient beings, capable of knowing fear, despair and pain. Moreover, many of them demonstrate extraordinary intelligence. Allowing the use of wildlife trading for medicinal purposes can lead to unbelievably inhumane treatment of some of these sentient beings.</p><p>This is most certainly the case, for example, with bears farmed for their bile in Asia. They may be kept for up to thirty years in extremely small cages – sometimes they cannot even stand up or turn around. The tiny cages prohibit all natural behavior for these intelligent and sentient animals, who endure a life of fear and suffering.</p>
Disease Originating from Factory Farming<p>It is not only from wild animals that zoonotic diseases have originated. The inhumane conditions of the great factory farms, where large numbers of domestic animals are crowded together, has also provided conditions conducive to viruses spilling over into humans. The diseases commonly known as 'bird flu' and 'swine flu' resulted from handling poultry and pigs. And domestic animals are also sentient beings who experience fear and pain. MERS originated from contact with domestic dromedary camels in the Middle East, perhaps from consuming products from infected camels such as undercooked meat or milk.</p>
Conclusion<p>Scientists warn that if we continue to ignore the causes of these zoonotic diseases, we may be infected with viruses that cause pandemics even more disruptive than COVID-19.</p><p>Many people believe that we have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world. We need to halt <a href="https://rainforests.mongabay.com/08-deforestation.html" target="_blank">deforestation</a> and the destruction of natural habitats around the globe. We need to make use of existing nature-friendly, organic alternatives, and develop new ones, to feed ourselves and to maintain our health. We need to eliminate poverty so that people can find alternative ways to make a living other than by hunting and selling wild animals and destroying the environment. We need to assure that local people, whose lives directly depend on and are impacted by the health of the environment, own and drive good conservation decisions in their own communities as they work to improve their lives. Finally, we need to connect our brains with our hearts and appropriately use our indigenous knowledge, science and innovative technologies to make wiser decisions about people, animals and our shared environment.</p><p>While there is a justified focus on bringing COVID-19 under control, we must not forget the crisis with potentially long-term catastrophic effects on the planet and future generations – the climate crisis. The movement calling for industry and governments to impose restrictions on the emission of greenhouse gases, to protect forests, and clean up the oceans, has been growing.</p><p>This pandemic has forced industry to temporarily shut down in many parts of the world. As a result, many people have for the first time experienced the pleasure of breathing clean air and seeing the stars in the night sky.</p><p>My hope is that an understanding of how the world <em>should be</em>, along with the realization that it is our disrespect of the natural world that has led to the current pandemic, will encourage businesses and governments to put more resources into developing clean, renewable energy, alleviate poverty and help people find alternative ways of making a living that do not involve the exploitation of nature and animals.</p><p>Let us realize we are part of, and depend upon, the natural world for food, water and clean air. Let us recognize that the health of people, animals and the environment are connected. Let us show respect for each other, for the other sentient animals, and for Mother Nature. For the sake of the wellbeing of our children and theirs, and for the health of this beautiful planet Earth, our only home.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis warns that "global warming may have played a pivotal role" in the recent rise of a multidrug-resistant fungal superbug, sparking questions and concerns about the emerging public health threats of the human-caused climate crisis.
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To save insects we must give them the space they need to survive. asadykov / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Andrew Urevig
Butterflies and bees, ants and beetles, cockroaches and flies — whether loved or feared, insects help humans. Just sample the ways these animals enable life as we know it: they pollinate crops, give us new medicines, break down waste and support entire ecosystems.
Yet many insects around the world are in decline.
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By Andrea Spacht Collins
It's been a big year for me: new name, new address, renewed sense of purpose about the need to tackle climate change now. As the holiday season approaches, I'm reminded that I couldn't have done any of these things on my own. I have a powerful community of friends who have supported me. And I can't wait to honor and celebrate them over Friendsgiving dinner this year.
1. Plan Your Portions<p>Figure out just how much you need to prepare for your party by using the Natural Resources Defense Council's free digital portion planner, <a href="https://savethefood.com/guestimator" target="_blank">The Guest-imator</a>. You tell it how many people you are hosting, what kind of eaters they are, what you are serving and how much you want leftover, and it tells you how much to prepare.</p>
2. Start Small<p>Serve dinner on salad plates. Especially if your guests tend to have a lot left on their plate at the end of the meal, start with a smaller plate so that when they pile it up, it's more closely aligned with what their tummies can handle. If anyone is still hungry after the first pass, they can always go back for seconds. </p>
3. Pardon a Turkey<p>If you're willing to make your own traditions you can save a bit of cash and a lot of climate pollution by prepping<a href="https://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/vegetarian-thanksgiving?" target="_blank"> a vegetarian main course </a>instead of the bird. That's because <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/issues/climate-healthy-eating" target="_blank">meat has an outsized climate footprint</a>, so wasting it especially harmful for the planet. Skipping the meat can also help keep our lifesaving antibiotics working when sick people need them. In fact, <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/david-wallinga-md/analysis-high-intensity-antibiotics-us-beef-pork" target="_blank">turkeys are given antibiotics more intensively than other food animals in the U.S.</a> — a problem that is fueling the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections in humans. A <a href="https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017780-whole-roasted-stuffed-delicata-squash" target="_blank">beautiful stuffed squash</a> can be an eye-catching main dish without the added climate guilt or risk of Salmonella superbugs. </p>
4. Keep the Peel<p>Since you're already planning a crazy amount of <a href="https://thestir.cafemom.com/food_party/222114/thanksgiving-vegetarian-side-dishes-everyone-will-love/316269/cauliflower_gratin/3" target="_blank">side dishes</a>, save yourself some time and don't bother to peel your veggies. Just give them a good wash and embrace the rustic look.</p>
5. Pickle It<p>In recent years, gut health has become a core (pun intended!) facet of a healthy diet. Fermented foods like pickles are great for your digestive system, and also happen to be a good way to preserve surplus produce. In the weeks before the party, consider <a href="https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2017/08/lacto-fermented-dill-pickle-recipe.html" target="_blank">pickling veggies</a> — from cauliflower to onions and carrots — that you aren't going to get to before they spoil, and serving mixed veggie pickles as part of your appetizer board. </p>
6. Salvage a Cooking Crisis<p>Burned the stuffing? Over-salted the gravy? Potatoes too bland? <a href="http://www.savethefood.com/tips/5-ways-to-revive-food" target="_blank">There's a fix for that</a> so you don't have to toss it!</p>
7. Savor Your Scraps<p>Give surplus ingredients from your core recipes new life — whether as a new addition to the Friendsgiving feast, or in the week to follow. Leftover pumpkin puree? Mix it up into a <a href="https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/geoffrey-zakarian/pumpkin-flip-2674347" target="_blank">pumpkin spice cocktail</a>. Extra fruit and opened bottles of wine? <a href="https://www.winc.com/blog/what-to-do-with-leftover-wine" target="_blank">Make sangria</a>. Too many potatoes? Make <a href="https://savethefood.com/recipes/leftover-mashed-potato-apple-cider-donuts" target="_blank">donuts</a>.</p>
8. Love Your Leftovers<p>For those dishes so good that less than a single serving is left behind (like my famous green bean casserole!), incorporate them into a <a href="https://savethefood.com/recipes/crispy-sheet-pan-hash" target="_blank">frittata</a>, <a href="https://savethefood.com/recipes/turkey-bone-and-stuffing-dumpling-soup" target="_blank">soup</a> or <a href="https://savethefood.com/recipes/ugly-vegetable-pasta" target="_blank">pasta</a> for Tuesday when you'll no longer have energy to cook something fresh.</p>
9. BYO Doggie Bag<p>Tell your guests to bring a to-go container to share the leftover love.</p>
10. Just Freeze It<p>The freezer is a magic pause button for food — and <a href="https://www.savethefood.com/tips/the-art-of-freezing" target="_blank">almost anything can be frozen</a>. If you don't eat it within a couple days after the feast, freeze it, label it and you'll be excited to have a pre-made option in a couple weeks when you need it!</p>
By Ketura Persellin
Global consumption of beef, lamb and goat is expected to rise by almost 90 percent between 2010 and 2050. But that doesn't mean you need to eat more meat. In fact, recent news from Washington gives you even less confidence in your meat: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of line workers.
1. Environmental Damage<p>Industrial-scale <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/new-investigation-recent-explosion-poultry-factory-farms-nc-piles-manure-515m-chickens-waste" target="_blank">meat and poultry production</a> harms the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/" target="_blank">environment</a> — from the pesticides used to grow feed and the manure that runs off into waterways to the fertilizer that releases greenhouse gases and then pollutes rivers, lakes and oceans. You know that slime covering your favorite lake? You can blame that largely on industrial-scale agriculture.</p>
2. Climate Change<p>Cow flatulence isn't just a laugh line; it's a significant contributor to <a href="https://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/interactive-graphic/" target="_blank">climate change</a>. Burps make an even bigger contribution. Your support of the meat industry helps fuel climate change, and eliminating or reducing meat from your diet is the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/30/dining/climate-change-food-eating-habits.html" target="_blank">biggest contribution an individual can make</a> to fighting climate change.</p>
3. Environmental Justice<p>Those who can least afford to escape the damage caused by industrial-scale meat production – the stench of manure in the factory farms and spread around nearby – are those most affected by it. When a factory farm floods, it's likely to be a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/under-radar" target="_blank">minority neighborhood</a> overtaken by runoff that includes manure, fertilizer and other debris.</p>
4. Drug Resistance<p>The overcrowding of animals in factory farms increases their chance of getting sick. Farmers try to "solve" the problem by routinely dosing even healthy animals with <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/superbugs/" target="_blank">antibiotics</a>. But that's leading to antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," reducing the effectiveness of life-saving medications for people.</p>
5. General Health<p>The hormones fed to animals produced in a conventional setting may increase the chance of cancer. What's more, red and processed meat have been linked to <a href="https://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/meat-and-your-health/" target="_blank">chronic disease</a>. By contrast, a plant-based diet can help reduce the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/cancer/keys-to-a-healthy-diet" target="_blank">risk of cancer</a>and lower the incidence of heart disease. One large study shows vegetarians are one-fourth less likely to <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian" target="_blank">die</a> of heart disease. One more reason: Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index than meat eaters.</p>
6. Sustainability<p>Animal-derived protein hogs resources. It uses grass-covered land in a way that's inefficient, and a tremendous amount of water, just for starters. Cutting it out entirely, or even reducing your consumption, will benefit the environment.</p>
7. Expense<p>The cost of meat is coming down as demand for it grows. Still, a diet that doesn't include meat is <a href="http://money.com/money/4066188/vegetarians-save-money/" target="_blank">easier</a> on the wallet. For instance, as a source of protein, legumes are far less expensive than meat and poultry.</p>
By Nicole Ferox
Did you know that in order to receive organic certification, packaged foods must be free of not only toxic pesticides but also thousands of added chemicals like artificial preservatives, colors and flavors? Only 40 synthetic substances have been reviewed and approved for organic packaged foods. By contrast, thousands of chemicals can be added to conventional packaged foods, many of which don't require independent government review or approval for use.
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Tawatchai Prakobkit / EyeEm / Getty Images
Sanderson Farms announced Friday that it will stop unnecessarily administering two medically important antibiotics—the only two it reports using—in its chickens by March 1, 2019. The company will use the two antibiotics only when treating ailing animals or to control diseases in flocks with some sick birds. "This is a welcome change of heart and good news for people's health," said David Wallinga, senior health officer at NRDC. "To inspire consumer confidence, however, these new pledges will need to be independently verified."
In a significant win in the fight to save antibiotics, McDonald's—the largest and most iconic burger chain on the planet—announced Tuesday that it will address the use of antibiotics in its international supply chain for beef by 2021.
By Ketura Persellin
You've likely heard that eating meat and poultry isn't good for your health or the planet. Recent news from Washington may make meat even less palatable: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of the industry.
By Erik D. Olson and Lena Brook
We live in partisan times, as anyone who had to sit through Thanksgiving dinner with distant relatives can probably attest. But even your crazy uncle would agree that the safety of our food shouldn't be a partisan issue. No one wants their child to get sick from eating a hamburger, chicken, or—in the case of the current E. coli outbreak—romaine lettuce. Yet last week's empty Thanksgiving salad bowls are a harbinger of what's to come if our federal government does not start taking food safety seriously.
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