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article imageReview: 'Defeating the Superbugs' Special

By Alexander Baron     Sep 11, 2012 in Health
One of the major health problems faced by mankind in the 21st Century is the rise of so-called superbugs. This programme tells the viewer what most of us already know.
The big problem is that some people never forget anything and they never learn anything either. This hour long documentary in the BBC's Horizon series is currently on iplayer for those who can receive it. For those who can't or who miss it, watch out for it on YouTube.
The major cause of the rise of so-called superbugs including MRSA is the irresponsible use of antibiotics, an irresponsibility that at times borders on criminal stupidity. Here in the UK, such drugs are available only on prescription, but in India they can be purchased over the counter, and in the USA they actually feed them to animals.
This documentary visits both countries and among others talks to two specialists: one who tracks superbugs, another who advises hospitals how to avoid them. Washing hands between patients is not a bad start.
The really bad news is that while a plane ticket to India will set you back several hundred pounds, bugs travel free, and the whole world is now infected to some degree.
In New Mexico another academic, Professor Hazel Barton, can be found collecting bacteria in caves which can hopefully be used to create a new generation of antibiotics for the fight against the superbugs. Back in the UK, another researcher hopes to develop a new weapon from viruses collected from a sewage farm.
Moving back to the USA, a fifth academic/researcher is trying an entirely different approach attempting to modify the behaviour of bacteria themselves.
It remains to be seen if any of these methods or others will succeed, but one thing is for certain, bacteria have been on this planet a lot longer than we have, and they will be here long after we are gone.
More about Horizon, Superbugs, MRSA, Professor Hazel Barton
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