‘In Victorian times, up to 1 out of every 10 of you would have already died of an infection’, visiting Professor Peter Hawkey told a student audience in Marling Sixth form.
At the invitation of Marling Medical Society, Professor Hawkey, from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Microbiology and Infection, was speaking to the assembled students about antibiotic resistance – what it is and why it is important.
Since the development of antibiotics, we have relied on them to save hundreds of thousands of lives each year, he explained. But their widespread use, in humans and animals, now means that many microbes are developing resistance. This is a massive threat to human populations across the world.
While the UK has recently largely cracked the problem posed by MRSA – the hospital ‘superbug’ – the big new threat comes from E. coli and other similar bacteria Professor Hawkey continued. The uncontrolled use of over-the-counter antibiotics, agricultural use and poor sanitation in some counties, together with an increasingly mobile global population, is driving this problem.
The answer lies is thinking about antibiotic resistance in a whole-world and whole-environment way, said Professor Hawkey.
When asked if there is anything, we can do to minimise the problem, Professor Hawkey responded:
‘It’s a problem that requires large scale solutions led by government and industry, but that doesn’t mean that individuals can’t play a part. We can for instance minimise our use of antibiotics and make informed choices about buying meat that has been produced using fewer antibiotics.’
Louis Davenport, active member of Marling Medical Society said:
‘We were so pleased that Professor Hawkey agreed to come to speak to us about this fascinating and crucial subject. Many of us are interested in studying medicine or related disciplines at university and listening to this talk has inspired us to pursue our goals in that direction.’