Antibiotics

Superbugs – bacteria that resist the effects of the most powerful antibiotics – are being reported more and more frequently. Some doctors see their rise as heralding the end of the age of antibiotics. BBC News Online’s health team presents an overview of the past, present and future of the 20th century’s greatest medical breakthrough.


The emerging superbug
Visa is resistant to just about every antibiotic known to medicine and has been discovered in hospitals from Japan to Scotland – find out where it comes from and why it has got doctors worried.

News reports

Media choice


A brief history of antibiotics
Antibiotics have revolutionised medical care in the 20th century, but in recent years bugs have been winning the battle against the medical profession.

News reports

Media choice

    Living history
    Sharon Alcock gets a close up view of Alexander Fleming’s penicillin at a sale of medical instruments
    Changing use
    BBC Health Correspondent Richard Hannaford examines variation in European practice


Bacteria: A bug’s life
Meet the most successful organism on earth, and find out why it poses a threat to humans.

News reports


A future for antibiotics?
If superbugs eventually defeat doctors, what does the medical world have up its sleeve? BBC News Online finds out.

News reports

Media choice

    Research difficulties
    Douglas Georgala, chairman of the government’s advisory committee on antibiotics, says the development of new antibiotics is becoming more and more difficult
    The master switch
    BBC Science Correspondent Christine McGourty examines the potential of a technique that “turns off” bacteria
    At the cutting edge
    BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh hears from scientists at the 1999 British Association Festival of Science


A patient’s guide
Antibiotics are useful in combating bacterial illnesses, but doctors say patients need to be aware of the do and don’ts of using them.

News reports

Media choice

    What patients want
    Roger Odd and Dr Rosemary Leonard discuss why “typical patients” demand antibiotics from their doctor
    Informed patients
    Dr George Rae of the British Medical Association says the way forward is about education
    The task ahead
    Dr Simon Fradd, of the Doctor Patient Partnership, says it will take a long time to change public opinion


Managing demand
Doctors often complain they feel under pressure to prescribe antibiotics to keep patients happy. BBC Doctor Colin Thomas describes his experiences.

News reports

Media choice


Countryside resistance
Antibiotics have been used in farming since their introduction, but fears about the increasing risk of superbugs have led to their use being curbed. BBC Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby looks at the current state of play.

News reports

Media choice

    Standard procedure
    BBC Environment Correspondent Margaret Gilmore says thousands of pigs, poultry and some sheep and cattle are routinely given antibiotics
    Freely available
    BBC Environment Correspondent Richard Wilson investigates access to antibiotics – which farmers can get without a prescription