Episode 3 – Superbugs

Superbugs - Jonathan and Fiona
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10 Things to Know About… Superbugs


The rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is globally recognised as one of the greatest potential threats to human health. No new class of antibiotic has been found since 1987, and in February 2017, the UN’s World Health Organisation released its first ever list of the World’s Most Dangerous Superbugs, saying, “Within a generation, without new antibiotics, deaths from drug-resistant infection could reach 10 million a year. Without new medicines to treat deadly infection, lifesaving treatments like chemotherapy and organ transplant, and routine operations like caesareans and hip replacements, will be potentially fatal.” Aoibhinn travels to Geneva to meet Dr Marc Sprenger, Director of Antimicrobial Resistance at the World Health Organisation to find out more about the AMR threat, and what is being done to fight back.


Referencing the incredible surgical advances we’ve made over the last few decades, Marc underscores the genuinely frightening concept that we could be on the brink of returning to the dark ages in terms of medicine and healthcare. We also meet Margaret Dawson, who lost her husband Joe to MRSA in 2016 and knows all too well, the dangers of a world without effective antibiotics..


In Ireland, Jonathan meets Prof Martin Cormican, NUIG microbiologist and HSE Health Care Associated Infection National Lead to discuss some of the reasons for the emergence and spread of AMR, and what we here in Ireland could and should be doing about it.

Every day, antibiotics and resistant bacteria are being flushed into our wastewater systems but incredibly, treatment plants have no controls or regulations in place anywhere in the world for removing antibiotics and resistant bacteria from wastewater. Jonathan meets EPA researcher Fiona Walsh who discusses her role in an EU project to better understand and quantify the issue of AMR in the environment. The first of its kind, the project will measure the spread of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes in waterways across Europe and offer solutions to remove them from our wastewater.





Could part of the answer to our search for new antibiotics lie, quite literally, under our noses? In Weird ScienceFergus investigates how hipsters (?!) could be part of the solution…

Weird Science Superbugs Still


It’s crucial that we reduce our use of antibiotics in healthcare but agriculture continues to one of the major factors in the spread of antibiotic resistance. Many farmers add antibiotics to their animal feed to reduce the risk of disease, but is that really the best way to care for the animals? Kathriona meets Teagasc researcher Laura Boyle who is exploring the link between poor welfare, antimicrobial usage and resistance on Irish pig farms and visits a pig farm that has dramatically reduced its use of antibiotics without it having any effect on the animals’ welfare.



Check it out on Monday 27th November, 8.30pm on RTE One

Watch the episode on the RTE-Player_Logo

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