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File on 4 : superbugs.

  • Urry, Allan.
  • Audio

About this work


Radio documentary entitled 'Superbugs' presented by Allan Urry looking at how bacterial infection is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Chief Medical Officer of England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, suggests that finding a new antibiotic should be on the government's strategic risk register because of its serious implications. Dr. Neil Woodford, from the Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring & Reference Laboratory, of Public Health England, speaks about his research on bacteria and antibiotics. Dr. Susan Hopkins, a consultant from the Royal Free Hospital, London, talks about operational procedures and patients with underlying health problems who have drug resistant infections. The situation in America is visited, and an event from 2011 is discussed by Dr. Tara Palmore, infectious disease specialist at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Maryland, where there was a serious outbreak of the deadly strain of bacteria, Klebsiella. She talks about attempts to prevent the outbreak spreading and patient treatment with various combinations of antibiotics that didn't work. Dr. Richard Bax researches microbial susceptibility and speaks about Gram-negatives, explaining how their complicated structure and defensiveness means they have multiple resistances to multiple classes of antibiotics and how they pass these resistances between bacteria. A drug resistant case of a version of e-coli, ESBL (a Gram-negative), at Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool is discussed by Dr. Stéphane Paulus, Consultant in Infectious Diseases & Immunology, and we follow him on his rounds. Through the results of a recent Point Prevalence Survey, the NHS has begun to understand the problems of e-coli infections and the survey revealed that Gram-negatives are more prevalent than previously thought. Dr. Susan Hopkins, one of the authors, talks about how causes of infection have changed and the need for more research. Dame Sally Davies mentions the good work that's been done on MRSA and C. difficile and how she has raised awareness of new infection problems. Dr. Neil Woodford is concerned about antibiotic resistance, particularly amongst the carbapenem antibiotics, reserved for very resistant infections. Julie Cawthorne, Consultant Nurse in Infection Prevention and Control at Central Manchester & Manchester Children's Foundation Trust, talks about a strain of carbapenem resistant Klebsiella from four years ago. Dr. Andrew Dodgson, infectious disease specialist, at the same Trust, discusses proposals to screen more patients for infections. It is suggested that Public Health England should be monitoring the numbers of infections, and Neil Woodford gives reasons why this hasn't happened so far as well as wanting more steps taken to secure carbapenems for the future. Dame Sally Davies thinks there's already sufficient reporting in the system and that Point Prevalence studies are able to show where there are drug resistant bacteria. Dr. Susan Hopkins wants to see quality data for antibiotic use and infections across the country to help drive research by data. A discussion follows on the private company IMS Health who gather data on hospital prescribing, including that for antibiotics. It is pointed out that this data is not publicly available, and also that there is still no compulsory reporting of the most problematic strains of infections.


UK : BBC Radio 4, 2013.

Physical description

1 CD (38 min.)


Broadcast on 21st May, 2013.

Creator/production credits

Presented by Allan Urry ; produced in Salford by Paul Grant for BBC Radio 4.

Copyright note

BBC Radio 4.



  • English

Where to find it

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