Resistance to bacterial infections and raw milk Part 2

Part 1 of this series explored how strong resistance to disease and bacterial infections may be achieved, when the diet of people and ruminant animals are appropriate to the species, and nutrient-rich.

A nourishing diet feed the micro-organisms in the microbiome and rumen. These diverse microbes help us digest food, protect us against disease-causing bacteria and make vitamin B’s and other essentials. They keep the host in wellness. When animals and people are healthier, because the beneficial microbes create soil health and gut health, there is less need for antibiotics, and less probability of creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs, that can lead to rampant bacterial infections, disease or death. In this video, veterinarian Dr. Anna Catharina Berge DVM, Sweden, explains why she is passionate about reducing antimicrobial use and resistance with a holistic approach in farming. She says that if farmers are using a lot of antimicrobials, it means the animals and the production systems are sick, and we need to find a way to address these.

“We are bacteriosapiens”

At the recent LiveAlive expo in California, Mark McAfee from the Raw Milk Institute gave a great presentation about raw milk as the “first food of life”, our immune system builders and gut biome generator. He says that humans are really “bacteriosapiens”. Our guts and skin were designed to be jam packed with good microbes .The name of his talk was: "Raw Milk... the Gut Biome Builder like No Other Food on Earth". Bacteria drive our immune systems and in terms of cells, they outnumber human cells 10 to 1. The human genome project clearly shows why we need to embrace unprocessed foods that contain a biodiversity of good bacteria and the food that feeds them. If we intend on having strong immunity to fight illness, we must embrace whole foods that nourish the gut biome, and its community of bacteria. Mark says that unprocessed, gut-healing, non-allergic, and easy to digest raw dairy products are an excellent choice of food to support a strong immune system. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said 2400 years ago, “let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”. He also said, “all disease begins in the gut”.

Peg Coleman, a senior medical microbiologist and risk analyst, is passionate about filling the gaps in people’s understanding of microbial risks and benefits.

Peg calls our microbiota our gatekeepers to health.

In her lectures Peg talks about how the microbiota of healthy people can effectively inhibit colonisation and overgrowth by invading pathogens.

Colonisation resistance is the innate protection against pathogens by normally dense, diverse gut microbiota influenced by environment. Peg says that when the normally diverse protective microbiota is disturbed by antibiotics, drugs, or stresses in various environments, susceptibility to pathogens greatly increases. Immunocompromised patients are at higher risk than the general population due to abnormal or depleted microbiota, loss of colonisation resistance, and higher susceptibility to low pathogen loads or doses often present in hospital environments. Having a low diversity of species in the gut, low numbers of Lactobacillus (the microbes common in yogurt) and altered microbial-network structures are actually dangerous for humans. Our microbiota and immune systems have to co-mature to avoid persistent inflammation and disease, as well as recover normal function after acute and chronic disease by first ‘minding our microbes’. Read more about her work here.

Research show that reliance on commercial probiotics and pills can be ineffective and even harmful. Also, remember there are two kinds of raw milk, and one of them is intended for human consumption. Mark says the risk from raw milk can now be reduced to near zero when the right controls are applied.

Image: click to enlarge.

In this article, the function of raw milk from the mother cow to colonise the rumen of the newborn calf is described. The raw milk contains both the probiotic microbes and components to feed them. Oligosaccharides, or complex sugars, function as the selective growth substrates for specific beneficial bacteria to grow in the gut. The raw milk also has many components to protect the raw milk from pathogen invasion. Like us, cows are also living hosts for commensal microbes.

According to research, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, small worms and fungi make up the human microbiome. North Queensland research show hookworm is harmless and beneficial for humans, contrary to popular belief. According to this article, there are other worms which have been found might also assist in the treatment of diseases like coeliac. Harmless E.coli and harmless Listeria are also a natural part of the human gut, whether they just move through or live there permanently, more here. Campylobacter was not considered a human pathogen in North America until 1972. It was

considered normal to have Campylobacter immunity once you've had it. People had bio-diversity in the gut to thank for this protection. The real health crisis started when people lost their gut bio-diversity and as a result, their immunity. Loss of diversity is like having the welcome mat out for pathogens.

Changes in the microbiome — resulting in too many bad bacteria and not enough good ones — can make it more difficult for the body to drive away illness.

Health issues are now strongly linked to the overgrowth of potentially dangerous bacteria, whether that bacteria was introduced or normally co-existent. Potentially harmful or pathogenic bacteria are common residents of the microbiome, but they aren't usually a problem because an abundance of beneficial flora and a healthy immune system keep the balance. That is until antibiotics, antimicrobials and other factors disrupt this system, and tip the scales in favour of disease.

Pathogens and Zoonoses

Pathogens are bacteria that may be harmful to human health, like Listeria Monocytogenes and E.coli O157. Zoonoses are infectious diseases of animals that can be transmitted to humans, instigated by the proliferation of certain kinds of microbes. Zoonoses are one of the common obstacles thrown into the path of efforts to legalise raw drinking milk, so it is worth exploring. It is also worth mentioning that the recent International Milk Genomics Conference 2018 (and other sources) reveal that there are many new testing regimes on the way for dairy, like the Cibus DX inexpensive, rapid 30 minute pathogen tests, which is exciting.

The global raw milk movement have implemented mitigating strategies and other creative ways to survive despite the existence of zoonotic dangers, see Raw dairies keep farming and show resilience and the 11 categories of the Risk Identification and Risk Reduction Program. Raw milk industries overseas are often required to test the entire herd annually for bovine tuberculosis. Bovine tuberculosis, caused by Mycobacterium bovis, is a particular problem in the UK where there are some high risk areas. The current TB testing regime, however, is highly problematic for some farmers in the UK. For example, there is a new TB test that tests the blood of the animals, that is quick and reliable and should be replacing the old, problematic test soon. There are exciting new technologies that lie ahead that should be implemented when Australia allows regulated raw milk from cows. Tuberculosis and Brucellosis, however, have been eliminated in cattle in Australia many decades ago. Ongoing surveillance and biosecurity requirements ensure ongoing management. They are a manageable risk.

New South Wales’ Department of Primary Industries documents the zoonoses problematic in Australia on this website. Some of them are bacterial, parasitic or viral. These common diseases are caused by particular kinds of bacterial infections:

  • Bovine Tuberculosis - Mycobacterium bovis

  • Brucellosis / undulant fever - Brucella abortus, B. melitensis, B. suis, and B canis

  • Listeriosis - Listeria Monocytogenes

  • Q Fever - Coxiella burnetii

Q fever has recently been in the news, because the drought has meant an increased number of reported cases.

What is Q fever?

Q fever is an infection caused by bacterium Coxiella burnetii and is often misdiagnosed due to the similarity of symptoms with other illnesses, like the flu. According to this SA Health fact sheet, many infected people have no or few symptoms. People who do become sick often have a severe flu-like illness. Symptoms begin about 2-3 weeks after coming into contact with the bacteria and typically include high fevers and chills, severe ‘drenching’ sweats, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains and extreme fatigue.

This infection can occur both direct and indirect. One of the main portals of entry is described as inhalation. The bacteria from infected animals can also pass into milk, urine and faeces and can be shed in large numbers during birthing, when the animal is vulnerable. Diagnosis is made by a series of blood tests. 1 - 2% of people with acute Q fever die from it.

In these articles, the potentially serious nature of Q fever is not downplayed. Rather, alternative perspectives and potentially mitigating practices that may generally be overlooked or ignored, are explored.

It seems possible that some people can develop immunity to Q fever after exposure to a mild strain of the the bacterium.

The organisation NSW farmers, are calling for mobile screening for Q-fever. NSW Farmers newly elected president James Jackson contracted the acute form of the disease. One morning he found he could hardly get out of bed. Thinking he’d shake it off he jumped in the shower and collapsed. He went into septic shock, fell across the drain hole and almost drowned in the shower. What followed was a week in intensive care and a month’s recovery, during which time he was on such a powerful regime of antibiotics he lost some of his hearing. After about a month he had recovered.

Recent online articles explain that there is now an Australian vaccine that is said to be effective protection for some people against Q fever. This is not the best way forward for everyone though. Especially not for those who live in cities. We have to increase the health and immunity of plants, animals and humans the biological way, anyway, with the help of nutrient-rich, live foods.

 

The rise of disease during drought?

A recent November 2018 article reported that cases of Q fever is rising because of the drought in Australia. The same article has a photo of beef cattle standing in a mist of dust in the cattle yard, with little to eat. Where did we go wrong? When there is plenty of pasture for cattle to eat, Q fever doesn’t seem to be a such huge problem.

What happens during drought, when the rain stops falling and the soil goes barren?

According the article, Q fever organisms are resistant to heat, drying and many common disinfectants, allowing them to survive for long periods in the environment. It explains that infection of humans usually occur by inhalation of the bacteria in air carrying dust contaminated by infected animals. Both domesticated and wild animals can be a carrier, even the family cat or dog. Person-to-person spread is extremely unlikely. Usually, Q fever is an occupational disease of meat workers, farmers and veterinarians.

Australia has recently seen a few dust storms, like the one that swept up dry soil from drought-stricken parts of New South Wales, in a line

of dust of more than 500km long. It could be seen from the Victorian border, through Canberra and up to Queensland. It hit Sydney on 22nd of November. Paramedics responded to asthma, breathing difficulties and respiratory complaints.

NSW Health said the dry and windy conditions felt around New South Wales in recent months put people at an additional risk of contracting Q fever.

NSW was declared 100% in drought earlier this year. Pathogenic and zoonotic bacteria have been around for aeons, but they are increasingly a problem. Also of interest, is that Coxiella burnetii is one of the most heat-resistant organisms of public heath significance. This 2006 article questions if pasteurisation is scientifically justified for the prevention of Q fever. Some microbes are known to grow resistance to some of the commonly used, pasteurisation techniques. According to Wikipedia, C. burnetti was used as a biological weapon in a biological warfare program as one of seven agents in 1969.

The organisms that lead to Q fever isn’t going to leave Australia soon. The bacterium is an established part of farm life.

Other more holistic approaches to increase the immune function of animals and humans have to be explored and implemented. When animals veer away from eating a diet most appropriate for the species, it is not going to support optimal, healthy rumen micro-organisms that promote health, or maximise the health benefit for others further up in the food chain. Remember that Professor Rodney Dietert, Cornell University, said that there are multiple layers of ways in which mutualistic, commensal microbes in the gut, in the airways, on the skin or in the gastrointestinal tract naturally block pathogens from getting a foothold. Ruminant animals are mammals too, just like people.

The microflora should be considered the first line of defence in health, and strategy for health, rather than just making assumptions that everything will be fine or that problems can be fixed by prescribing antibiotics alone.

The immune system and the microbiome need to co-mature to avoid persistent immune dysfunction, and to reduce the risk of infections. Established beneficial bacteria provide colonisation resistance and protect against infections and pathogens. For more, see the work of senior medical microbiologist and risk analyst Peg Coleman.

 
“In the near future, the highest priority of both preventative and therapeutic medicine will be managing microbes... we will all become microbial gardeners or shepherds watching over our microbial flocks.”

- Professor Rodney Dietert, immunotoxicologist

Watch this episode of Landline about a study that reveals some surprising results into the prevalence of Q fever in Australia that screened the 10th of March 2019.

The rise of disease during floods or high temperatures?

Parasites that can cause gastroenteritis, or gastro, are another common obstacle thrown in the path of efforts to legalise regulated raw milk. But when humans have a microbiota that provide colonisation resistance, these parasites are less likely to take hold, if they are accidentally ingested. Raw milk supporters testify that they have personal experience of this: they don’t suffer gastro infections easily, and observe that non-raw milk consumers around them are more prone to gastrointestinal upset.

Even science show it is more life-threatening not to have the diverse beneficials in place…

Australia is facing more severe floods and droughts, and with it more severe impacts on health. There has been more outbreaks of parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium in water sources. As the weather heats up in parts like NSW, swimming pools are a common source of infection for crypto - a protozoan parasite.

Case reports tend to peak between November and March and is usually mild and self-limiting (1 - 2 weeks), but for immune-impaired people it can be serious to life-threatening. Last year South Australia experienced significant cases of gastro, and this ended up as an opportunity to shut down Moo View dairy’s herd share operation. According to Raw Milk Advocacy Association SA, no trace of Cryptosporidium were found in the milk or in the water supply of the farm, read more here. Crypto is another one of those very resilient organisms. Chlorine, a conventional disinfectant, does not penetrate the shell of cryptosporidium. An infection can be obtained from many recreational water sources, like rivers, lakes, oceans, swimming pools, water parks, spas, splash pads and worst case scenario, even municipal water.

Surely cultivating colonisation resistance in the gut is a better mitigation strategy to increase human immunity and resistance to disease, than continual avoidance or fear of the local pool?

An educational/belief crisis

It seems quite likely that health officials in Australia don’t understand the significance of diverse beneficial microbes in the gut as first line of defence in health, or why commercial probiotics are inferior. Health- and other authorities also don’t seem to understand that raw milk from cows can be produced as a low-risk, and even near zero-risk food. Out of date medical school eduction can also make it near impossible for some scientists to understand the new research, trends, experience and beliefs that have emerged since the human genome project. Scientists have been taught to think of microbes that exist in stool as “toilet bacteria”, thus the enemy. It can be very disruptive to their beliefs when poop from healthy people are given to sick relatives, and it becomes the life saver that results in rapid recovery of health.

A huge crisis in beliefs can occur when new research makes some of the pillars of university education obsolete. It may leave some scientists in a state of mental conflict that may take years to resolve, if ever…

It can also be challenging for scientists to admit that they doubt the wisdom of the status quo, especially in the face of social pressures. Scientists will have to find a way to re-evaluate their beliefs.

At the Food Standards Agency in the UK’s latest meeting in December, they discussed how the FSA had been working for the last year on strategic ways using social science to hear what people are saying and understanding what the trends, and the scale of new trends are.

They now understand that the world is changing, and that they have to change as well.

They acknowledge that people (especially the younger generations) have different mindsets, and that the FSA need to look through different lenses at its own policies and interventions, and re-evaluate them if they want to influence people.

It is a concern that Australian food safety officials don’t seem to show interest in exploring a wider understanding around foods like regulated raw milk from cows.

Sepsis: another potentially deadly infection

Sepsis occurs when a bacterial infection, that may have started in the bowels or anywhere else, reaches the blood, and the immune system has a strong reaction that can cause organ failure. The immune system protects an individual from many illnesses and infections, but it’s also possible for it to go into overdrive in response to an infection. This can be more problematic when the immune system has not had proper ‘training’ on how to properly respond to microbes. What often starts out as symptoms of bacterial infection, can rapidly progress to septic shock, which can be fatal. It’s also called blood poisoning. According to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, “more than 90% of everything toxic in our blood comes from the gut. So healing the gut drops the levels of toxins significantly.”

Sepsis, which can be caused by a variety of potentially harmful microorganisms, takes 5,000 Australian lives each year.

According to this article, sepsis kills more than breast cancer, colon cancer and AIDS combined. Unfortunately, treatment can be challenging, and is becoming even more so as drug-resistant infections become more prevalent. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, sepsis is the most expensive condition being treated in U.S. hospitals, costing more than $24 billion in 2014. Widespread sepsis is now a symptom of creating too many terrains with antibiotics, antimicrobials, harmful pathogens and superbugs, and failing to create terrains where commensal microbes dominate.

 
“The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism.” - Sir Alexander Fleming, 1945

Lessons presented in these articles

  • Return to pasture-based farming

    National policies can be put in place to help farmers, especially now that Australia is in drought. Farmers will benefit from learning how to grow a large mass of nutrient-dense, remineralised forage for the animals, that maximises the forage to be available year round. It can put a protective green ‘cover’ over the soil year round, to minimise dust storms, and to provide healthy feed for grazing animals.

  • Re-establishing hierarchy

    Mankind has set ideas about the different expressions of life. We tend to think of ourselves as the pinnacle of the animal-, plant- and mineral kingdoms. The true hierarchy is actually the reverse. This entire planet is made of minerals which determine the state of being and health of the rest: minerals rule the earth. Minerals, together with microbes, enable plants to thrive. The plants determine many aspects like controlling and regulating life. Mineralised plants feed animals and humans, and regulate the climate. Humans are doing a poor job of managing this planet; desertification and deforestation are excellent examples.

  • Accept co-existence

    Potentially harmful microbes seem to have been with us for aeons. Other articles also explain that the total eradication of pathogens is not possible and that a certain balance, with the help of healthy conditions, can result in co-existence:

    Listeria in Australia,

    Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA and probiotics,

    The terrain and the reductionist approach

  • Create farming systems in which beneficial microbes can dominate and protect

    It is essential that many terrains, which includes the rumen of the animal, contain a large diversity of beneficial microbes to help increase health and resistance to disease. Increase these good microbes in multiple terrains, and we can rely on them to create protection and immunity for animals and humans, and depend on them to keep equilibrium. Raw dairy farmers can grow beneficial microbes in the terrain on the farm with certain healthy, pasture-based farming conditions. Healthy farming systems also means not using antibiotics or chemicals with anti-microbial properties like herbicide and synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. These can reduce the diversity of good microbes and kill the beneficials first, leaving pathogens to flourish.

  • Beneficial microbes in the diet

    Raw milk has significant health benefits. Traditionally, people have cultured their raw dairy to increase the microbes in it, resulting in products like home-made kefir, yogurt or cheese. These have offered protection against infectious and non-communicable diseases, and enhanced immune function. It is partly the lack of diverse-species, beneficial microbes - as part of a regular diet - that have lowered our resistance to bacterial infections and lead to immune system dysfunctions. Up to 80% of the human immune system lies in the gut; where microbes reside. Our gut biology is responsible for our good health.

AdobeStock_200849637 scales of justice.jpg

Conclusion

Weighing the risk: the balance between hazards and benefits of raw milk

Something needs to be determined. We have a system level problem, because some are prohibited from enjoying access to the beneficial microbes from a natural food source that has been enjoyed by mankind for thousands of years. Prohibition-based policies around raw milk - which focus solely on minimising risk - are missing the critical point of raw milk's unique health benefits, at a time when they are desperately needed. Nature has a system that should not be adulterated. We are “bacteriosapiens”. It’s our nature.

By only considering the risks of zoonotic dangers and pathogens in prohibition, and ignoring the dangers of losing our beneficial inhabitants, we are making mankind more susceptible to disease.

Regulated raw milk production can help to produce the diverse species, commensal

microbes that can help us grow stronger immune function. In Australia we enjoy regulated raw milk cheese from cows, regulated raw goat milk is legal in some Australian states, and many enjoy ‘bath milk’. Raw milk for human consumption from cows can be produced as a low-risk, pathogen-free product in a system where the right controls are applied.

The benefits of regulating it fairly outweigh the risks.

Science has already showed that beneficial microbes can act like an antidote, to mitigate the risk of bacterial infection, and to train the immune system how to properly respond to exposure to microbes. It’s time to give up the misconceptions of the past and accept that beneficials protect and must dominate. It is nature’s system of equilibrium that supports life.