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Antibiotic resistance - fighting the superbugs

18 December 2015
Dr Nick Brown, consultant medical microbiologist at Addenbrooke's hospital, spoke to The Naked Scientists about the rise of antibiotic resistance, and his interview was broadcast on local BBC and BBC Radio 5 Live this week.

Dr Brown said:  “Resistance is a natural phenomenon and in many respects I think it could be inevitable that following exposure, bacteria will develop resistance. The bacteria mutate so that they're able to evade the action of the antibiotic.

“The key to the current problem is that whereas in the 1950s and 1960s, whenever antibiotic resistance developed we were able to replace an antibiotic with a new one, now we're in a situation where they have been no truly new antibiotics in the last 20 years or so.

“One of the big concerns that we have now is that the pace in which resistance appears to be proliferating is increasing.

“As close as some parts of southern Europe there are infections in patients where there are no antibiotics left treat infections, and in those situations obviously the outcomes of treatment of severe infection are poor.

“Going forward some years you would think there is a possibility that some infections that we now take for granted can be treated might not be able to.”

England's chief medical officer has been very prominent in advising how important antibiotic resistance is.

Dr Brown added: "Use of antibiotics is seen as absolutely key to antibiotic resistance because bacteria - a bit like Darwin selection - if you expose people to antibiotics they will develop resistance.

"At CUH we have an antibiotics stewardship group that meets here regularly to review the use of it in the hospital.

“People need to work together and be critical of others when they are using antibiotics inappropriately and challenge inappropriate use of antibiotics. The ultimate aim of all of this is treating people properly and making sure infections are treated in the best way."