Analyse the causes of antibiotic resistance within bacteria and assess the impact this could have on society.

Contents

1 – Introduction
1.1 – Section one: An outline of the Problem of Antimicrobial Resistance
1.2 – Section two: Solutions to the Problem of Antimicrobial Resistance

Section 2 – An outline of the Problem of Antimicrobial Resistance
2.1 – Mechanism
a. Relevant layout of the bacteria capable of causing anti-microbial resistance
b. Mutation of the cell
c. Biochemical/Efflux Pumps
d. Enzymes
2.2 – The Cause
a. The agricultural industry
b. Medical malpractice
c. Failure to regulate
2.3 – The Impact

Section 3 – An outline of the Solutions to Antimicrobial Resistance
3.1 – In Vitro Meat
3.2 – Government spending on research
3.3 – Government legislation and regulation
Section 4 – Conclusion
4.1 – The Impact
4.2 – The Cure

 

1 – Introduction

This project seeks to outline the problem of antimicrobial resistance. The first section of this document will include a discussion into the mechanics behind the development of resistance in bacteria, the operations within society which are leading to a rise in antimicrobial resistance and the impacts that near-total immunity to antibiotics in bacteria would have on everyday life and society as a whole. The second section of this document will explain the particular routes and avenues in which society can help solve the rising immunity to antibiotics that exists within certain strains of bacteria. This includes an assessment of new potential medical and agricultural practices, as well as government intervention in the marketplace and in the realms of scientific research. Antimicrobial resistance will herein be referred to interchangeably as antibiotic resistance in bacteria, AMR, or antimicrobial resistance. These terms for the purpose of this document will remain interchangeable, although there are nuances between the definitions on a scientific basis. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is defined as “when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective.” (World Health Organisation 2017), as opposed to antibiotic resistance in bacteria which specifies which strain of microorganism is being affected by the problem of antibiotic resistance.
1.1 – Section one: An outline of the Problem of Antimicrobial Resistance
As stated above, the first section of this document will outline the mechanics of Antimicrobial resistance, this includes the different biological weapons in evolution’s arsenal. The first area which will be discussed is when there are mutations in the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria which lead to an inability for antibiotics to enter the cell. Secondly, this document will explain how the development of biochemical pumps in bacteria can expel antibiotics, thus defending them against the antibiotics. Furthermore, the first section will also look into the mutation of active sites within bacteria and the addition of enzymes within the line of attack for antibiotics which hamper their effectiveness and lead to antimicrobial resistance.

After the mechanics of antimicrobial resistance have been explained, this document will seek to lay out that which we humans do that leads to antimicrobial resistance, including medical malpractices, farming faux-pas and the frivolous misuse and overuse of antibiotics in unregulated economies and developing nations. Leading on from this, the impacts to wider society, such as the inability to treat diseases which otherwise would we easily treatable, general medical practices such as blood transfusions and organ transplants which would no longer be viable, and the effect it would have on travel and other such wider problems.
1.2 – Section two: Solutions to the Problem of Antimicrobial Resistance
The second section will hopefully be less doom and gloom. Explaining the methods which society could undertake to lessen the effect or reverse the problems of antimicrobial resistance. Section 2, subsection 1 will look into the solutions within the medical sphere, such as more in-depth

Section 2 – An outline of the problems of antimicrobial resistance
Antimicrobial Resistance will be one of the defining issues of the next century. Since their discovery and use, antimicrobial resistance has been found against every strain of antibiotics we have in our arsenal (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). Over the last 20 years, different medical professionals and scientists have theorised the coming of the end of antibiotics in society, with “tuberculosis, typhoid fever, meningitis, pneumonia, and septicaemias” emerging as imminent global threats (Quintessence Int. 1998). The development of antibiotics has been on a general downwards trend since their introduction to medical use in the 1940s, with peak antibiotic development occurring around the late 1950s to the early 1960s.  (See fig 1.1)  Frivolous use and lack of in-depth scientific knowledge regarding antibiotics has likely seen most of the drug’s potential squandered.
antibiotic_res_4_2826037903
Timing of Market Introduction and Emergence of Resistance for Selected Drugs. [fig 1.1] (Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, n.d.)

As we entered the 21st century, the level of usable antibiotics has sharply declined. For example, the levels of usable antibiotics for the disease Gonorrhoea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) currently sits at just one. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, “fluoroquinolone resistance in N. gonorrhoeae emerged in the United States”, by 2007, resistance to fluoroquinalone was so widespread that medical professionals stated that the antibiotic was no longer relevant in the treatment of Gonorrhoea. This left a strain of antibiotics called cephalosporins as the last remaining effective strain of antibiotics in the fights against Gonorrhoea. (Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report 2007, 2012). Within the cephalosporins antimicrobial class there were two strains effective against N. gonorrhoeae, cefixime and ceftriaxone. Fig 1.2 shows the minimum inhibitory concentrations for both these antibiotics, indicating an elevation in the necessary level of said antibiotics in treating Gonorrhoea infections. This elevation had suggested a waning in the effectiveness of the antibiotics against the strain, and come late 2012 the cefixime strain of antibiotics was entirely ineffective.
This extreme adaptation to antibiotics has not solely occurred in Gonorrhoea however, it is something that has affected a certain type of bacteria almost universally. Due to this, as a society, we may run out of useable antibiotics within the next few decades, and the problems that will bring to society will be immense.

Percentage of Gonorrhoea isolates with elevated cefixime MICs and ceftriaxone MICs

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[Fig 1.2] (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012) MICs = minimum inhibitory concentrations

diagnoses of diseases to determine which form of antibiotic is suitable for treating the symptoms, and also a condemnation of the current malpractices of Doctors prescribing general antibiotics for viral infections, of which these have no healing effects. Subsection 2 will look into the agricultural industry, highlighting how better farming practices would lessen the impact of anti-microbial resistance, and how the current development of In Vitro meat could remove the necessity of using antibiotics within the industry altogether. Finally, within this section, I will sum up the overall government regulations and potential schemes the government has and should put in place to combat the issue of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria.

Mechanism

  1. Relevant layout of the bacteria capable of causing anti-microbial resistance

[Figure 1.3] (Diagram showing the differing nature between gram positive and gram negative bacteria, 2013)Most antibiotics currently work by attacking the functions of the inner cells, inevitably to do so, they must be able to access the cells themselves. There are two major forms of bacteria, known as gram-positive, and gram negative. [See fig 1.3]
Gram-positive bacteria contain a peptidoglycan cell wall, which acts as a primary defence, past this there is a plasma membrane. This cell wall houses little defence against antibiotics, and because of this, the mechanism for antimicrobial resistance is rarely to do with the outer membrane. However with gram-negative bacteria, in addition to the peptidoglycan cell wall and the plasma membrane, there is also an outer membrane and the periplasm.

Gram-positive-and-gram-negative-cell-wall-of-bacteria
Diagram showing the differing nature between gram positive and gram negative bacteria.

  1. Mutation of the cell

    The outer membrane creates a barrier to antibiotics. There are two routes in which an antibiotic can permeate the cell wall. There is a pathway for hydrophobic antibiotics which negates the necessity for diffusion, and general diffusion pores that cross a cellular membrane for hydrophilic antibiotics (Delcour, 2008). Once within the outer membrane, bacteria commonly work by preventing the bacteria from building such a cell wall, this occurs when the antibiotic prevents the molecules which form the cell wall from binding together. An example of an antibiotic which utilises this technique is Beta-Lactam group.
    Alternately, the macrolide group of antibiotics work by attacking the ribosomes in the cells of bacteria. Ribosomes function by constructing the proteins, and proteins are what help keep the bacteria cell alive, therefore by attacking the ribosome, the antibiotic will cause the bacteria cell to die (Learn.genetics.utah.edu, n.d.). Random mutations within bacteria can cause a modification in the structure of areas such as the ribosomes and the cell walls. With the macrolide strain of antibiotics, resistances comes either through methylation or mutation of the ribosome which prevents the macrolide from binding to it (Leclercq, 2002).

  2. Biochemical/Efflux Pumps

    Following on from methylation or mutation of the individual parts of the cells, another way in which bacteria gain a resistance is through a process called efflux. Efflux is the mechanism responsible for moving compounds, like antibiotics, out of the cell. (Sun, Deng and Yan, 2014) Efflux pumps are located in the cytoplasmic membrane of the cell and are considered to be active transport pumps. Active transport pumps require energy to function, rather than working by functions such as osmosis, of which would constitute passive transport. Although not necessarily purposeful, cells with efflux pumps also work at expelling antibiotics, and the problem with antibiotics arise due to the fact that the bacteria with efflux pumps are far more likely to survive than those which do not. These bacteria then multiply through the process of binary fission which is a form of asexual reproduction, due to this, other than random minor mutations, the offsprings are genetically identical to the parent cell. Additionally, whilst some efflux pumps are antibiotic specific, many actually operate on multiple drugs.

  3. Enzymes

    The final mechanism of antimicrobial resistance this project will cover is enzymatic modification. (Chow, J.W., Mobashery, S., Toth, M., Vakulenko, S.B., 2009) Enzymatic modification is when bacteria produce enzymes which are capable of modifying the respective antibiotic prior to it reaching its target. (De Pascale, G., Wright, G.D., 2010). This, in essence, means that they cannot perform their roles and are thus ineffective. Enzymes that perform such functions commonly exist within the periplasm (see fig 1.3), and as antimicrobial agents via general diffusion make their way across the enzyme and protein-rich body they are modified irreparably. Beta-lactamases elaborated by both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria hydrolyse what is known as the amide bond of the beta-lactic nucleus destroying the antimicrobial abilities of the beta-lactic agent. (Trevor, Katzung and Kruidering-Hall, 2012)

    The Cause

    1.  The intensive farming industry is one of the largest causes of antimicrobial resistance that we’ve identified. (VMD, 2009) In essence, antibiotics are being used within intensive battery farming to ensure that animals are able to survive in squalid conditions, this is used to reduce the price of meat, and to also increase the amount produced. The average annual per capita cost to consumers in the US were there to be a ban on antibiotic drug use would be $4.84 to $9.72, assuming a U.S. population of 260 million, the total cost to consumers would amount to about $1.2 billion to $2.5 billion per year (National Academies Press (US); 1999). Adjusting for inflation, this sum in 2017 would be up to $3.7 billion.

      According to a report produced by an independent body chaired by the British economist Jim O’Neill, farming within the US uses up to 70% of antibiotics which are critical to medical use in human beings (O’Neill, 2015). These antibiotics are used in healthy animals to both speed up growth, and as a preventative measure to stop disease spreading due to the unhealthy conditions the animals are kept in, as a result, the levels of antimicrobial resistance is becoming ever more prevalent – especially within countries that have massively developed economically over the past 20 or so years (Tilman et al., 2002). Due to a lack of regulation, antibiotics which are kept as a last resort to save the lives of human in case of widespread antimicrobial resistance are being used within the farming industry, because of this, bacteria is ever more likely to adapt to become resistant (Hancock, 2017). A recent study from China (STAT, 2017) has shown that some strains of Escherichia coli have developed resistance to colistin, a form of polymyxin antibiotic. This antibiotic is a last resort antibiotic, one of the last effective forms in our antibiotics armoury.

    The waste runoff from intensive farming is another major concern when antibiotics are used in farming, there is very little that can be done to prevent these antibiotics escaping into the environment (Karthikeyan and Meyer, 2017). Studies of sludge at wastewater facilities have shown a growing level of resistance across the spectrum. In environments which contain a wide variety of antibiotics, antimicrobial resistance can occur at a far more rapid pace, leading to general concerns of widespread antimicrobial resistance in sewers and streams. These circumstances are the greatest cause of antimicrobial resistance and need to change if we are to tackle the issue. (Compassion in World Farming, 2017).

    1. Medical Malpractice is another major cause of antimicrobial resistance. Increasingly, antimicrobial resistance is being linked with the volume of antibiotic medication prescribed, as well as general laziness when it comes to taking antibiotics (for example, missing out on a dosage, or finishing the course of antibiotics before it has run its course). (Pechère, 2001). Additionally, the prescription of incorrect of ineffective antibiotics has been attributed with the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance. (Arnold and Straus, 2005). Another instance of increasing levels of malpractice among the medical community is in the prescribing of antibiotics when entirely irrelevant. The common cold, for instance, is a viral infection, and antibiotics are entirely ineffective at combating viruses, the prescription of antibiotics to combat a viral infection will have absolutely zero effect on the disease itself, and will only lead to the ever increasing rate of anti-microbial resistance being hastened. Doctors know that in most cases that the common cold is a virus, however, patients feel like they haven’t been treated well if they attend a doctors clinic and receive no medication, so in instances where approval ratings need to be reached, or the doctors want their patients to feel like something has been prescribed to help fix the illness, doctors will prescribe entirely useless medication. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (Cdc.gov, 2017) up to half of the antibiotics used in humans are unnecessary and inappropriate.
    2. Another sociological cause of antimicrobial resistance is a lack of global government regulation. With underdeveloped and individualistic economies allowing the sale of last resort antibiotics without any real recourse or regulation. Many of these antibiotics are strictly regulated in developed countries due to their critical importance and ability to prevent deaths in the extreme cases. In addition to this, the manufacture of antibiotics itself is unregulated, and in China and India, the effect of this is severe. (The Guardian, 2017). The release of wastewater containing particles of antibiotics and general medical contaminants is vastly increasing the rates of antibiotic resistance and is causing the spread of antibiotic ingredients which cause bacteria to develop immunity to antibiotics, creating superbugs. A study of this wastewater found that not only were antibiotic resistant bacteria escaping the filtration system meant to prevent them escaping into the environment. “For every bacterium that entered one waste treatment plant, four or five antibiotic-resistant bacteria were released into the water system, tainting water, livestock and communities”. Recently, 13 pharmaceutical companies signed a declaration aiming for collective action on antimicrobial resistance. This committed them to a review of their manufacturing processes, with the aim of preventing contamination of the wider environment.

2.3 – The Impact

Without effective antibiotics, medical procedures will become ever more difficult. The World Health Organisation has stated that standard procedures such as “organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very high-risk. In addition to common diseases such as pneumonia and chest infections could become extremely lethal once again. Such an eventuality would increase the rates of mortality, increase the average length of stay within a hospital, and dramatically and adversely impact the economic standing within nations.

The first major problem with antibiotic resistance is the obvious one. Antibiotics, as a medicine, will cease to work. This means that simple bacterial infections will no longer have a cure. Currently, over two million people are infected a year in the United States with bacteria that has gained antibiotic resistance. (Cdc.gov, 2017). And out of these, up to, and perhaps even over, twenty-three thousand die. This is just the beginning, whilst our widespread ability to use antibiotics is mainly intact. However as the effect of AMR becomes ever so more widespread and prevalent, the number of deaths will inevitably rise.
chartoftheday_3095_Drug_Resistant_Infections_n
[Figure 1.4] (Graph showing the potential and estimated rise of deaths from antimicrobial resistant infections, compared to the rate of deaths from other causes of death or death causing incidents)  (Business Insider UK, 2017)

The above graph shows the estimated increase in deaths from antimicrobial resistance, compared to the increase in deaths from cancer and other diseases/accidents. The scale of the threat from antimicrobial resistance can be truly recognised when the total level of deaths from Cancer will be below the number from antimicrobial resistance. At a total of 10 million deaths, this will almost represent a total of 1 in 3 deaths, and the worst affected will be infants and the elderly. In years gone by, prior to the age of antibiotics, simple scratches and throat infections could and would regularly lead to death. Of course, this was reversed with the invention of antibiotics, however, with their ineffectiveness being slowly actualised, the reverse will be a reality. People will die from a minor cut or scratch if we cannot deal with the problem.

The economic cost of these ten million deaths per year from antibiotic resistance is expected to exceed £66 Trillion. This figure is greater than the current world economy. (World Bank,2013). The impact will be most prevalent on the poor, increasing levels of poverty, increasing global tensions as countries without any major medical complications will become increasingly at risk of high mortality rates, conflict and extreme poverty.

 

Section 2 – An outline of the Solutions to Antimicrobial Resistance

3.1 – In vitro meat

The rise of lab-grown meat could herald major results in reducing the level of antimicrobial resistance seen today. Evidently as discussed above, intensive farming is a major cause of antibiotic resistance, and as a result, the ability to manufacture meat in a laboratory, with no need to use antibiotics, and no risk henceforth of the antibiotics leaking into the surrounding environments would lead a major way to lower the levels of AMR. Lab-grown meat is the process of culturing meat cells taken from animals, and causing them to multiply using a solution of nutrients and the like. The cost of lab-grown meat has dropped a staggering 30,000 times in less than 4 years and is currently produced at a cost of 3 to 4 times the amount of regular reared meat. By logical extension, one could assume that this price could drop further, and perhaps even undercut the cost of reared meat. (NextBigFuture, 2017). In addition, the general practice of lab-grown meat, options such as veganism and vegetarianism can go a long way to reducing the use of antibiotics in intensive farming.  With every drop in the consumption of meat, the need to use antibiotics decreases.

From an evaluative perspective, the advent of lab-grown meat as a readily available commodity, and the widespread increase and adoption of veganism and vegetarianism will go a long way to tackling one of the major contributing factors to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. This is one of the key pillars of the problem, and eliminating it as a factor would take a lot of strain off of the general system and allow a more lax approach by global governments. Government incentive and private investment into the technology behind lab-grown meat, to ensure its profitability, and a general PR campaign to tackle the stigma associated with its consumption would be the last few steps necessary to enact this solution. It is something estimated to happen within the next few decades, if not even this one (ABC News, 2017).

 

3.2 – Government spending on research

In the UK there is a 5-year antimicrobial resistance strategy to help prevent the rise of AMR. It has three strategic aims, and they are to:
– Improve the knowledge and understanding of antimicrobial resistance
– Conserve and steward the effectiveness of existing treatments
– Stimulate the development of new antibiotics, diagnostics and novel therapies
These are mostly aimed at research, with the UK government and other international bodies have been spending around £276bn on the development of new antibiotics and general research. (University of Birmingham, 2017)  (Gov.uk, 2013). However this spending doesn’t go far enough, there have been global calls for a new $2bn research fund, and increasing calls for the UK government to increase its own levels of funding following an exit from the European Union. (BBC News, 2017).

In reality, government spending on research of new antibiotics will only go part the way to solving the problem, perhaps if successful, it will give us a longer length of time in order to tackle the process of AMR. Improving the knowledge and understanding could play a crucial role in developing an effective strategy to combat the problems of AMR, including ensuring that doctors diagnose the correct illness, provide antibiotics only where necessary, and use the correct antibiotics when a patient is sick, rather than plastering them with ineffective or antibiotics of last resort. Additionally, government spending into the advertisement of this problem could go a long way to raise public awareness, with factors such as public misuse of antibiotics contributing significantly, and education within schools and colleges playing a big role in creating a generation of people who do not abuse antibiotics.

With these areas looked into, the slowing of antibiotic resistance, the creation of new antibiotics and the education of the general population as to the problems and to the easy solutions could help. However it is much like global warming, ensuring that many individuals contribute for the wider good is relatively difficult, so it almost always comes to government regulation in order to protect us from the problems we collectively create.

Research could also go a long way to tackle some of the causes of antimicrobial resistance. For example there are some drugs which have been shown to inhibit the functioning of enzymes or efflux pumps. (Chemistry LibreTexts, 2017)  (Askoura et al., 2011). Combining such drugs with antibiotics could far further their usefulness, ensuring that the processes of enzymatic modification or efflux were prevented. This is an area where further research must be done, as we may have the drugs available to us now, but we just don’t know it.

3.3 – Government Regulation

This last topic will cover three areas and provide a brief conclusion into the solutions available to us. The first topic will be governmental environmental regulation, the second will be within the medical industry, and the last looking at how global governments could cooperate to legislate against and regulate against rising antimicrobial resistance.

Within the UK, it would be beneficial for the government to tighten its environmental regulations in regards to the manufacture of antibiotics, the general use of them in medicine, and the use of them within livestock.
Firstly, as discussed prior in this report, it is common for doctors to overprescribe antibiotics. One method of government regulation could be to prevent the use of antibiotics in cases which they aren’t a necessity to ensure survival. If one person has a cold, but they are fighting fit and their immune system is up to shape to cure the disease, there is no need for antibiotics. Doctors shouldn’t prescribe antibiotics to those which are more than capable of having their immune system fight off the disease, because the use of antibiotics contributes to a global crisis, compared to, on the other hand, a handful of people having to deal with a cold for a slightly longer amount of time. This system would not only help prevent AMR, but it would also prevent the misdiagnosis of antibiotics on those who were actually infected with viral infections, to which antibiotics would have no effect. Additionally, greater regulation as to the private sale of antibiotics. This would have to affect medical manufacturers and could include moving to drugs providers who do not sell their antibiotics for individual private consumption.
Another thing necessary within the medical industry, is better regulation on which antibiotics can be used and when, those capable of treating the general populace should be used more leniently, and a few strains of antibiotics should be kept under complete lock and key, including no use in the agricultural industry, and no use in general medical practice. Only in the most extreme of cases.

Within the livestock industry, it is necessary for the government to regulate the use of antibiotics to an extreme degree. Including contamination regulations and regular tests on wastewater and water runoff from farms which use antibiotics, the regulation of which antibiotics can be used, and other such regulations. This will likely increase the price of farming, so to counter the problem, the government could either lower rates of taxation/subsidise the cost of farming in the UK to a greater extent, or on the contrary, could set up protectionist measures to ensure that within the UK, our farmers can compete. The prior mechanisms would be more profitable in the long run, and hopefully, as discussed earlier, lab-grown meat will take over from the farming industry as the main source of meat production in the future.

On a global scale more must be done to prevent AMR. What is currently happening in China and other developing nations is rapidly increasing rates of antibiotic resistance occurring, and the residents of these countries will feel the greatest impact. Countries must come together internationally to prevent the sale and misuse of antibiotics, they must work within an alliance to ensure that companies are properly regulated and not polluting the landscape with antibiotics and superbugs. We must work with airline companies to ensure that planes and methods of global transport have better hygiene mechanisms, and places such as airports are kept as sterile environments for bacteria. These are the main points of international spread contagion.

 

Section 4 – Conclusion

4.1 – The Impact

To conclude on the issue of the impact would be a misnomer of sorts. If left untreated, the number of deaths per annum could exceed cancer, treatments such as basic surgery and blood transfusions would be impossible, and the smallest of scratches could cause death. But this is the worst case scenario. This is what would happen if we do not act to tackle the problem.

In all reality this is unlikely, action is being taken more prevalently and at a greater pace than ever before. The potential problems have not only been outlined, but they have also gained the attention of the scientific community, the press, and now even the politicians.

With proper research, the effects of AMR can be slowed down, we can all work to lower the rates and this would lessen the impact. In reality, the deaths will likely be nowhere near as high, and people will be able to continue with their medical treatments like before. However there is still the risk, that our attempts to subvert the causes of anti-microbial resistance fail, and in this situation, the effect on human life would be catastrophic, it could cause mass poverty, conflict, slow down economic growth.

4.2 – The cure

Several mitigating factors will come into play over this debate. With many factors, there is not one simple cure. It will take an assorted effort from across the board to prevent AMR. With regulation within the farming industry, regulation within the medical sphere, better research and funding into education and new medicines, and a global effort to prevent the misuse of antibiotics we can solve this problem, but action needs to be taken. As a result of this report, individuals should be more aware of the dangers of AMR, and of the scientific mechanisms and societal causes. And as a result, pressure should be put to all parliamentarians in order to help solve this problem; it is the government which needs to act, and more can be done on their part.

A final word shall be this: for us to secure our own certainty for tomorrow, we must act today. Influencing change can be as simple as signing a petition, or writing a letter, and our own Members of Parliament have far greater a sway and influence than most people know. To save the lives of millions, all it could take is a letter from all those which read this report.

Bibliography available on request.

Could lab-grown meat save the human race?

To many, the concept of manufacturing meat seems like a new phenomenon, with advances in genetic science, cloning, and general biology, however, it has a rather in-depth history. The first landmark experiment leading to the development of in vitro meat is the 1912 experiment performed by Alexis Carrel. In these experimentations, Carrel took tissue culture from an embryonic chicken heart, and used a mechanism of structuring and providing this culture with the necessary nutrients for continued growth, thus aiming to prove that living cells could survive indefinitely under the right conditions. Whilst the results of his experiments were anomalous and were never successfully repeated, it was the first such use of what the modern, cultured meat, science would use.

Moving forward towards the first citing of the theoretical possibilities of utilising such technology for the creation of meat for human consumption, one rather famous Conservative Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, wrote that “The great mass of human beings, absorbed in the toils, cares and activities of life, are only dimly conscious of the pace at which mankind has begun to travel”. This is the first sentence of Churchill’s 1931 article “Fifty Years Hence”, which is an extraordinary read for those who have not yet considered it. In the piece, Churchill discusses his predictions and prophecies for the next fifty years, and although Churchill is perhaps a tad optimistic at times, it provides an accurate prediction overall for developments such as nuclear science and cloning. In one paragraph, Churchill writes that “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”, and thus the theory of in vitro meat was set in motion.

16839652_1307125609355716_1780290899_n
A time travelling Winston Churchill wielding a lab-grown chicken drumstick in the year 2067

Not quite fifty years hence, but a mere eighty-two years later, the first public trial of lab-grown meat for human consumption was broadcast to the world. In 2013, a group of three food critics tested, on live television, the quality of lab-grown meat. At that time the cost of one lab-grown burger was around £250,000. However, since then, the costs have plummeted. Peter Verstrate, the head of Mosa Meats, a company which is planning to mass commercialise cultured meats, stated in April 2015, that he was confident that the commercialisation of lab-grown meat will happen within five years – and he is likely to be correct. Since the 2013 test, the cost of one burger has fallen from that £250,000 price tag to a mere ~£8 per piece.

With an ever-growing demand for meat from developing countries, and the mounting environmental concerns around the practice of producing and sustaining the current agricultural industry, lab-grown meat is a welcome and positive story that can, and no doubt will revolutionise the food industry. The cost of meat could be at an all-time low as the technology develops, including a wide variety of beneficial health implications.

Now let us focus on the science behind the meat. In current procedures, scientists biopsy stem or satellite muscle cells from a group of general muscle cells taken from the animal of choice. The cells taken are responsible for repairing the muscle in the donor animal. These cells are then immersed in a nutrient rich medium which encourages their potentially indefinite growth. To put this growth into context, there can be a few hundred muscle repair cells from just a few strands of muscle tissue, estimates from scientists have suggested that from as few as 10 of these cells we could, under the maximum ideal conditions, produce 50 tonnes of meat.

Next comes an area which scientists have not yet fully mastered; lab-grown cells, much like naturally grown cells, need exercise and general wear and tear to form the same texture as “actual” meat. Another problem for scientists comes in the structuring of the growth of cells. So far, it has proven difficult to structure the lab-grown cells in such a way that they produce any three-dimensional form of structure. Mainly the procedure creates a thin layer of grown cells, which can be removed and turned into what is essentially a minced meat type substance. To produce a fully formed chicken breast or steak, it would require far more development, but nothing is beyond reach. The main issue is that this common procedure produces only muscle, there is yet to be a method developed to simultaneously grow different cell types (blood, fat, muscle etc) in a natural pattern. However, once these, and a few other obstacles have been overcome, lab-grown meat production could create meat which has an identical likeness to naturally grown meat.

The latest Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) figures suggest that the agricultural industry produces around 14.5% of all total greenhouse gas emissions, greater than the entire release of emissions from global transport. Whilst the FAO has stated that emissions from the agricultural industry can, with the right implementation of waste reductions and energy saving techniques, be reduced by a third, it does not make an overall difference due to the increasing demand for meat and animal products. By the year 2050, it is estimated that the demand for meat and milk will increase 70%. Duncan Williamson, the corporate stewardship manager at WWF-UK, has stated that “Around 30% of global biodiversity loss can be attributed to livestock production”. According to the WWF “The net loss in global forest area during the 1990s was about 94 million ha (equivalent to 2.4% of total forests). It is estimated that in the 1990s, almost 70% of deforested areas were converted to agricultural land.” Regardless of one’s political position, it is difficult to comprehend the vast scale of the damage caused by the meat industry, and the potential benefits that producing meat in factories could have. An independent study from the Environmental Sciences & Technology Journal has shown that lab-grown beef takes 55% less energy to produce, 4% of the total greenhouse emissions and 1% of the total land use. One of the major criticisms however of the practice, is that since the levels of energy consumption are so high, and estimates as to how much energy will be needed for a level of in vitro meat production on a commercial scale are not known, it is said that the solution could be equally as polluting as the current meat industry, although indirectly. However, with advances in power generation, such as the emergence of cleaner fossil fuel power generation technology, nuclear and renewable energy sources, high energy consumption does not necessarily indicate that the process is not “green”, only that our main method of producing electricity is not.

A problem that will cause us havoc over the next few decades is the growing rate of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria. Without effective antibiotics, medical procedures will become ever more difficult. The world health organisation has stated that standard procedures such as “organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very high risk”. In addition to common diseases such as pneumonia and chest infections could become extremely lethal once again. Such an eventuality would increase the rates of mortality, increase the average length of stay within a hospital, and dramatically and adversely impact the economic standing within nations. For us to prevent widespread antimicrobial resistance a major step must be taken to do two things: reduce the rate at which microbes are becoming resistant, and two, develop new strains of antibiotics. The latter is not relevant within this article, however, the prior is. The intensive farming industry is one of the largest causes of AMR that we’ve identified. In essence, antibiotics are being used within intensive battery farming to ensure that animals are able to survive in squalid conditions, this is used to reduce the price of meat, and to also increase the amount produced. According to a report produced by an independent body chaired by the British economist Jim O’Neill, farming within the US uses up to 70% of antibiotics which are critical to medical use in human beings. These antibiotics are used in healthy animals to both speed up growth, and as a preventative measure to stop disease spreading due to the unhealthy conditions the animals are kept in, as a result, the levels of AMR is becoming ever more prevalent – especially within countries that have massively developed economically over the past 20 or so years. Due to a lack of regulation, antibiotics which are kept as a last resort to save the lives of human in case of widespread AMR are being used within the farming industry, because of this, bacteria is ever more likely to adapt to become resistant. In a recent study from China has shown that some strains of Escherichia coli have developed resistance to colistin, a form of polymyxin antibiotic. This antibiotic is a last resort antibiotic, one of the last effective forms in our antibiotics armoury.

The waste runoff from intensive farming is another major concern when antibiotics are used in farming, there is very little that can be done to prevent these antibiotics escaping into the environment. Studies of sludge at wastewater facilities have shown a growing level of resistance across the spectrum. It is evident that with in vitro meat that there is no necessity to facilitate the rearing of animals, and thus there needs not be any form of antibiotic use over the lifespan of livestock. The effect this has on AMR will be substantial. Potentially influencing the lives of millions over the next few decades. If there is a single overwhelming argument in favour of the development and use of commercially viable in vitro meat production, this is it. Opponents to cultured meat state that despite growing levels of AMR in intensively farmed animals, there are precautions which can be taken to ensure general levels of AMR are reduced, namely by regulating and reducing the use of antibiotics within the farming industry, however to do this, the agricultural industry must raise the standards of care for animals, thus increasing the price of meat. This is another area where in vitro meat could one day beat normally reared meat.

The cost of developing a lab-grown burger in 2013 was £250,000, by 2015 that price had dropped to £8. With the technology still in development, it would not be too foolish a projection to suggest that this price will drop further. The cost of meat grown in a lab will almost certainly reach a price that is cheaper than naturally raised meat, with the quality and health implications being better by all measurements. With less of an environmental footprint, a reduced effect on the development of antimicrobial resistance, and with in vitro meat being potentially lower-priced than battery farmed meat, the arguments for its consumption are great. Without even touching upon the morality of consuming another creature in being, the emergence of lab-grown meat is a positive development for society.

 

Sticks and stones.

There is a hole stabbed in my heart
And lo my soul has torn in half
I fill the void with all these toys
And all your sighs and all your tears
It’s mighty hard, I fly too far
I hold it up the world so high
I jab the dark, love lost is stark
The sun too close, he tried to march.

The night doth mark, the beats restart,
It hits the bullseye like a dart.
I sever heads, to disconnect
Alas, this demon nay depart.
But like frayed threads, they have now spread
The crown on top, it doth dispart
For what was none there now is one
A fatal blow on my part.

And that is the spot, blank or not
The bullet’s wound is like a knife
It’s burning hot, that piercing shot
It is the ending of your life
A gift of fire for the earth,
I am the last, I am the first
I’ve come too far to close that box,
The curse inside; my bones it mocks

My weaknesses, they cannot heal,
I kill he who does not feel
My rage, my wrath, that Trojan horse
Came to my life, with no remorse
And at the end nicks light o’ dear
The dark of everlasting night is near
The pain and anguish; turned to stone,
With but a glimpse upon her throne.

There’s cuts to skin, twelve layers deep,
Labours one shall ever reap
And in this labyrinth of life
All hope is lost, but at what price?
Where are you now; dear Gods of mine?
My love in life, be gone in time.

Why the House of Lords should remain unelected, and what reforms should be made to strengthen democracy.

The House of Lords is an institution within the British system of governance which today serves as the upper chamber in our bicameral political system. Its role is to act as a check and balance to the power of the House of Commons. It’s certainly not perfect, but it has developed and evolved since the very first “model parliament” of 1295.

Recently we have seen more calls than ever to see a proportion of the House of Lords become an elected body. This was last attempted via the House of Lords Reform Bill 2012. This bill was introduced by Nick Clegg to Parliament whilst he was Deputy Prime Minister – showing the scope of political power behind electoral reform of the House of Lords. Of course, this bill was quashed following opposition from within the Conservative Party, and rightfully so. Attempts to reform the House of Lords, to turn it into an elected body, must be opposed.

So why not an elected upper chamber? Well, primarily, the unelected nature allows the Lords to contain peers which otherwise would not be politically active and hence ensures that relevant expertise is incorporated directly into the law-making system of the United Kingdom. For example, peers like Lord Colwyn, who was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Royal Society of Medicine. Knowledge such as this is crucial in a parliamentary system which relies on reason to rule, rather than charisma and the ability to act as a politician.

Additionally, the tenure created in an unelected body means Lords do what is right, rather than appeal to populism in order to get elected. Sometimes what is right isn’t popular. It would be popular to reduce all taxes and increase spending by many within the electorate, but, obviously, such an action is not feasible by any means, and thus such an action could never be sanctioned by a member of the House of Lords with levels of intelligence that respective members should all have. They cannot fear campaigning for election; they are accountable to the nation and not the subsection of society that they would purport to represent.

The House of Lord’s appointed nature also means that scrutiny is properly administered regardless of the government in power. A politicised, elected, House of Lords could circumvent scrutiny from the lower chamber simply due to ideological concurrence with the party in power in the Commons, thus removing any real checks and balances. If we look at today’s political system and assume that a House of Lords would be elected in between the General Elections, then it would follow that there’s nothing to stop the Conservatives (for example) in this country being both the majority within the Commons and the Lords. Such an event would cause a severe conflict of interest relating to the aims of both chambers. Proper scrutiny would not be possible when party whips could easily threaten any Peers which act outside the party line with deselection or lowered campaign funds when it comes to the re-election due to their rebellious nature. If we turn our attention to the current state of affairs within the Labour Party, there have been various allegations of a potential mass deselection of Parliamentarians who aren’t loyal to Jeremy Corbyn – if true, such a situation could easily occur within an elected House of Lords.

A final reason why an elected chamber is unnecessary is because of the limitations already in place within the current system of governance. The Parliament Act of 1911 removed the ability for the House of Lords to use its suspensory veto and confirmed the supremacy of the elected House of Commons in doing so, meaning the House of Lords could only suspend and amend bills for a 2 year period. Additionally, it meant that all Money Bills presented to the Lords must be passed within 1 month, or they would be presented to Her Majesty regardless of the consent of the Lords. Subsequent amendments to the Parliament act in 1949 saw the Lords can only delay a bill for up to 1 year. The Salisbury Convention also means that no policy outlined in a party’s manifesto can directly be rejected by the Lords, and thus the democratic nature of the Commons is protected, and the primacy of the elected chamber remains integral and intact.

That being said, the House of Lords could be reformed to increase its effectiveness further; the removal of political parties would ensure that the central party system has little control over the outcome of the votes within the Lords. This reform would work to create a more cooperative and expertise based House of Lords, and less of a politicised unelected chamber. Secondly, the removal of the ability for the Prime Minister to advise the Queen on which members of society would be pertinent for appointments. This would reduce the nepotism and patronage that the Prime Minister can utilise for political gain, it also means that the appointment of peers isn’t entirely political in the Minister appointing those whom she or he knows would be sympathetic to the causes which they would pursue. Following on from this point, it’s necessary for the number of peers within the House of Lords to be capped; equal in number to the House of Commons could be a target to prevent the flooding of the House of Lords, in addition to the fact that the Upper Chamber can seat fewer than half of all Peers regardless. The size and cost of government would be reduced, whilst additionally not affecting the effectiveness of the revising chamber.

Currently, a proportion of the House of Lords is appointed by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Established in the year 2000, this is an independent committee which seeks out to appoint people to the lords who are independently minded and who have the relevant expertise to work within the House of Lords. A reform to allow this body to advise all appointments to the Queen would be in the interests of democracy rather than to have the Prime Minister give advice the Queen on the majority of occasions. The strengthening of this body to allow those that are of great value to the nation, and with specialist knowledge, to become Peers is the way forward to best scrutinise parliament.

Lords existing for entirely religious reasons is contrary to the purpose of the Lords. The Lords, by its very existence, should exist as a revisionary body, scrutinising proposals which come from the House of Commons to safeguard the constitutional legitimacy and effectiveness of any bills which are set to be passed. The selection of a person “by God” does not a qualified Lord make and, in its current format, it should follow those Lords who profess to represent those of the religion should equally have a place within the Commons based on religious beliefs, or that these people need no representation in the Lords either. Thinking from an independent standpoint, it would seem ludicrous to have members of the House of Lords in existence solely to represent the views of atheists, so why is it at all necessary for there to be a subsection within the Lords to protect a certain religious grouping?

Finally, the House of Lords Reform Act of 2014 allowed members of the House of Lords to formally resign or retire, something which previously was constitutionally impossible. Following on from this innovation, the setting of a retirement age for Lords to ensure the quality of scrutiny and standards within the Lords would help make the House of Lords a more effective body within the British political system. Ultimately, the revisions outlined within this article are reforms which would strengthen the ability of the Lords to revise and scrutinise the Commons, as well as fortify the UK’s democracy.

Coming out as a Tory: Why I left UKIP.

Recently I made one of the hardest decisions of my life. You might think that for an 18-year-old like me it would be getting engaged to my fiance, deciding to take the leap and move out, or finally choosing which course and University I’m going to; but no.

Since 2010, I’ve been an active member of UKIP. I can remember at the ripe old age of 12 leafleting to help for their general election campaign with my grandfather. Over my time in the party I met some of the most brilliant people and found some of my best friends; it’s certainly no lie that if it weren’t for UKIP, I would never have found my partner, nor ever had the opportunity to see what it’s like to campaign with very little equipment, and with a bipolar public image that could get you both hugged and spat on in the space of 5 minutes.

Of course, that was 6 years ago now, and recently I made the decision to join the Tories. This is the first time I’ve announced to many that I’ve left UKIP, although, on the plus side, I’m sure many of my friends in the Conservative party will be happy to hear this. Telling a few of my close friends that I’d left reminded me of what it felt like to come out the closet!

So to explain my motives as to why I made this change, it’s best to state it this way: I’m a libertarian. I believe most strongly in the freedoms of the individual to have control over their social and economic prospects. I believe that I’m now best placed to achieve this within the Conservative Party. We’re the only party locally that has the ability to make a difference on the councils, the only party that can make substantial change in order to reclaim the freedom our forefathers have fought for, and the only party that, in the past, has stood up and fought so vehemently to protect both economic and social liberties.

It was the Conservative party to first have a sitting female MP, to first have a female Prime Minister. It was the Conservative party that legalised Gay marriage and allowed the Churches to finally decide their own religious stances, not be dictated to by the state. It was our party that brought into legislation a referendum on our membership of the European Union, and I hope it will be our party to finally take us out of it.

To quote Margaret Thatcher: “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it”, and our fight for liberty and freedom is one which will always occur. I hope that all those in UKIP respect my decision, as I have made sure to make this piece positive as to what I can achieve within the Conservative party, rather than the bountiful reasons as to why I have left UKIP. And I certainly hope that my new family will become as close to me as my last once was!

Find me on Twitter: @_JamieHollywood