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.
- The UK’s first superbug
BBC Scotland’s Asad Ahmed at the site of the UK’s first superbug – the Royal Glasgow Infirmary
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.
- Living history
Sharon Alcock gets a close up view of Alexander Fleming’s penicillin at a sale of medical instruments
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.
A future for antibiotics?
If superbugs eventually defeat doctors, what does the medical world have up its sleeve? BBC News Online finds out.
- 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.
- What patients want
Roger Odd and Dr Rosemary Leonard discuss why “typical patients” demand antibiotics from their doctor
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
Doctors often complain they feel under pressure to prescribe antibiotics to keep patients happy. BBC Doctor Colin Thomas describes his experiences.
- Doctors’ perspective
Richard Hannaford meets doctors’ leaders, who say the problem of over-prescribing is small
Burden of responsibility
Charlotte Gann, editor of Health Which? magazine tells the BBC that doctors have to take the lead
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.
- Standard procedure
BBC Environment Correspondent Margaret Gilmore says thousands of pigs, poultry and some sheep and cattle are routinely given antibiotics
BBC Environment Correspondent Richard Wilson investigates access to antibiotics – which farmers can get without a prescription