The Science

What are Antibiotics?

The reason that a cancer is so frightening, is because it is often incurable.  A cancer diagnosis feels like a death sentence.  People used to get the same feeling when they got an infection: infected finger, high probability of death; simple surgical procedure, high likelihood of death; nasty cough, high probably of death. This was especially significant around war time. More soldiers actually died from infections, than in combat. This was until 1928, whenAlexander Fleming found a way to combat infections. He discovered the very first antibiotic, called penicillin. This discovery, launched the golden age of antibiotics and changed our lives forever.  In 1900, no one used to worry about cancer, because it was rare to live long enough to develop it.
For more information on antibiotics check out this NHS page:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antibiotics/

What is Antibiotic resistance?

Bacteria are fighting back. They are growing resistant to all the antibiotics we use as medicine. This is because the bacteria are changing and evolving in response to the use of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a natural process, but is accelerated by the misuse of antibiotics in humans and in agriculture. 700,000 people die each year from infections that were once easy to treat with antibiotics. This number is growing each day. Some say that “We are nearing the post-antibiotic era”. By 2050, 10 million people will die each year due to antibiotic resistance.  This means that very soon, infections will once again kill more than cancer. In 1945, Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered the world’s first antibiotic substance, already knew resistance would grow. In his Nobel acceptance speech for the discovery, he gave us this warning “It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body. The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”