Stopping MRSA and other drug-resistant bacteria

Bars of Snowbunny Soap

Bars of Snowbunny Soap

by Catherine Haug, April 30, 2014 (Photo, right, by K. Mansfield)

I’m sure you’ve heard of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the bacteria that is not easily controlled by antibiotics, and is responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans, that likely lead to death of the patient. At least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections (1).

Environmental and health scientists believe that raising livestock in CAFOs, and on feed laced with antibiotics, is responsible for this deadly bacteria. And, in fact, could be creating other antibiotic resistant bacteria as I write this. (3)

What can you do to protect yourself and your family? You’ve heard me rant about this before on this site, so I’ll keep it simple:

Avoiding exposure to, and proliferation of, drug-resistant bacteria

  • Raise your own meats Organically, if you have the space; otherwise,
  • Buy your meats (poultry, beef, pork, etc) from local farmers whose practices you trust. Visit the farm and ask what the animals are fed. do your research;
  • The same goes for eggs – raise the hens yourself, or buy them from a local person whose practices you trust. See Gathering Summary: Raising Chickens & RabbitsRaising Chickens and More on Raising Chickens.
  • And for milk;
  • Teach your children good cleanliness practices, as detailed below;
  • Avoid use of commercial ‘hand sanitizers.’ Their main ingredient, triclosan, may also play a role in development of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Plus, they may contain a preservative called methylisothiazolinone (MI), which can cause serious allergic reactions. (1)
  • Use real soap in the bathroom and kitchen – I’m talking about a bar of castile or homemade soap. Do not use commercial liquid ‘soaps’ as they are detergents, not soap. Real soap is naturally antibacterial, but detergents are not. Plus, commercial liquid ‘soap’ often contains antibacterial chemicals that only exacerbate the problem of creating drug-resistant bacteria. See Gathering Summary: Making Soap at Home, by Kathy Mansfield, Soap vs Detergents and Fats for Soapmaking.
  • Use real soap in the washing machine; see Gathering Summary: Homemade laundry soap.
  • Use sensible cleaning practices in the kitchen when preparing foods (see below for more detail).

Cleanliness in the kitchen

Cutting boards and utensils can be a major culprit in spreading drug-resistant and other bacteria. But it’s easy to avoid this hazard by practicing these simple steps (from Mercola (1)

Drug-resistant bacteria can easily spread during food preparation. As reported by Reuters (3) cutting boards used to prepare raw poultry can be a major culprit in the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. Dr. James R. Johnson, an infectious diseases researcher, notes:

“If other foods go on those boards before the boards get cleaned, or even after they’re cleaned if the cleaning isn’t 100 percent effective, the other foods, which may not get cooked, or not as thoroughly as poultry, likely would get contaminated and so could possibly pose an even higher risk of transmission to humans than the poultry products themselves.”

  • First and foremost, carefully wash your hands and food-prep instruments before and after cutting foods (see below for more detail). Be mindful that cutting boards, cutting utensils and plastic gloves during food preparation can be contaminated with, and be a source of transmission of pathogenic bacteria.
  • Use wood cutting boards for meats. 25 years ago, we were advised to use plastic cutting boards especially for meats, as it was believed that wood cutting boards had a better chance of harboring bacteria than plastic. This has since proven FALSE. Wood contains natural resins that are antibacterial, whereas plastic does not provide this defense.
  • Use a designated cutting board for raw meats and poultry – never use this board for preparing other food. Make sure everyone in your home knows which board is to be used exclusively for meats.
  • Before and after using the cutting board, wash it with real soap and warm water.  I keep a bar of homemade soap by the kitchen sink. I wet the board, then rub its surface with the bar of soap, and scrub with a clean rag on all sides and edges. I do the same with my knives, rubbing the bar of soap along both sides of the wet blade, then scrubbing with a clean rag.
  • Sanitize cutting surfaces and equipment with diluted vinegar (white vinegar is perfect). Or use 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar : keep each liquid in separate spray bottle. Spray the surface with one, then the other, and wipe off. NOTE:  Peroxide should be kept in a dark bottle or one completely covered with paper, to keep the peroxide active. Swan Valley Herbs has a nice dark-blue glass bottle with a spray top that is perfect for this use.
  • After thoroughly cleaning the wood cutting board/surface, rub it  with coconut oil, which is a powerful destroyer of all kinds of microbes, from viruses to bacteria to protozoa. Olive oil is another alternative. Bonus: The fats in coconut or olive oil will also help condition the wood.

How to wash your hands

This may sound silly, but most people do not know how to wash their hands properly, to safeguard from spreading bacteria. (1)

  • Handwashing is one of the oldest and most powerful antibacterial treatments;
  • Be sure to use a mild soap  (homemade is best), as it is naturally anti-bacterial;
  • Avoid all antibacterial ‘soaps‘ (they have been implicated in the development of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria);
  • Wash your hands for 10 to 15 seconds with warm water;
  • Clean all the nooks and crannies of your hands, including under fingernails;
  • Rinse thoroughly under running water. Remember that cool water is best at rinsing off soap.
  • Dry hands well after washing.
  • In public places, use a paper towel to open the door as a protection from germs that harbor on handles;
  • Avoid becoming obsessive about washing your hands; if you wash them too frequently you can actually extract many of the protective oils in your skin, which can cause your skin to crack and bleed, and your skin is actually your primary defense against bacteria — not the soap.


  1. Mercola article: Kitchen Drug-Resistant Bacteria
  2. CDC: Antibiotic Antimicrobial Resistance, Threat Report 2013 (CDC Threat Report 2013 Summary)
  3. NY Times: Antibiotics in Animals Tied to Risk of Human Infection (New York Times January 27, 2014)
  4. Reuters: Kitchens could be source of drug-resistant bacteria (Reuters April 16, 2014)

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