Monday, 6 June 2016

Asthma. Is it caused by urban pollution? Or antibiotics?

Urban pollution is becoming a problem. No, more accurately it has been a problem for a very long time (I remember as a child hearing about the smogs in London in the 1950's). Rather, the mainstream media are beginning to highlight it as a problem. Why? I will leave them to explain!

On the BBC Today programme this morning (6th June 2016) they featured the story of a young girl who had died of Asthma. The mother is prosecuting the government as she believes her condition was caused by urban pollution, and the government has not taken sufficient steps to combat it.

I have every sympathy for that position, as far as it goes. But I suspect, from the evidence given during the feature, this is not the whole story. This is what listeners were told.
  • The young girl developed a cough, caused by a virus.
  • She visited her doctor, who gave her antibiotics.
  • Note, antibiotics for a viral complaint!
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, the drugs did not work for her cough.
  • She returned to the doctor, who gave her stronger antibiotics.
  • She then quickly developed asthma, in very severe form.
  • She was hospitalised several times before she died.
Now, urban pollution has been around where she lived for a long time. The only new factor in the situation was the antibiotic drugs. And it is now known that antibiotic drugs can cause Asthma!

The BBC interviewer failed to ask questions about the logic of the prescription. Antibiotics are indiscriminate killers of bacteria, not viruses. Yet what antibiotics do is to upset the balance of our gut bacteria, which is of central to importance to our immune system. 

Did the 'stronger antibiotics' transform the cough into asthma? Did it do such damage to the young girls gut bacteria she was no longer able to fight her asthma attacks?

Anyway, it was urban pollution that got the blame. Perhaps it needed to be pointed out that urban pollution is not a new problem, it had been there, where she lived, all her life. So it is unlikely to have caused  this sudden, fatal asthma problem. It may have contributed to her cough. In future it might have led to progressive breathing and lung problems. But was it really the trigger that led to asthma attacks that killed her?

So were antibiotic drugs the trigger? I suspect we will never know, and that no-one in the conventional medical establishment will ever bother to investigate as they might not want to know. Nor, it would seem, does BBC News!

So is this sudden media interest in urban pollution going to be used to explain away the epidemic levels of asthma, as a killer disease?