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Science
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Tuesday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Wednesday 16:30
Dr Mark Porter gives listeners the low-down on what the medical profession does and doesn't know. Each week an expert in the studio tackles a particular topic and there are reports from around the UK on the health of the nation - and the NHS.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 6 April
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DR MARK PORTER
Dr Mark Porter
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Tuesday 6 April 2004
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Antibiotics

Full programme transcript >>

Antibiotic use in the UK is falling, but is it too little too late? We are already dealing with the legacy of decades of overuse – as well as encouraging a new breed of resistant superbugs.  Antibiotics have been linked to breast cancer, the inflammatory bowel condition Crohn’s disease and childhood asthma.

Prescriptions
The number of antibiotic prescriptions issued in the UK has fallen by a third since the mid-nineties.  In 1996 there were 63 antibiotic prescriptions issued for every 100 males, and 86 for every 100 females - meaning the average man took 50 courses of antibiotics during his lifetime, the average woman closer to 70.

MRSA
MRSA is the best known of the antibiotic resistant superbugs. How big a threat does it really pose to our health and what effective weapons do we have left in our armoury? If we can’t win the battle against MRSA – a relatively benign infection in most patients – what will happen when more dangerous bacteria acquire the same level of resistance?

Risks
Recent research suggests that women given multiple courses of antibiotics are up to 50% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not. The link with asthma is even stronger – children taking lots of antibiotics are up to 11 times more likely to develop the condition. The nature of these links remains poorly understood but one factor may be the effect of antibiotics on the healthy bacteria living in our bowels.

Probiotics
Could boosting these bacteria by taking probiotics help, and should we be using them routinely in people prescribed antibiotics? What other benefits may probiotics have, does it make any difference which strain you go for, and in what form should you take them – they are available in fruit juices, capsules, tablets, yoghurts and yoghurt drinks, and even breakfast cereals? Dr Mark Porter sorts the wheat from the chaff by questioning the UK’s leading experts on probiotics.

Next week's topic is:
A&E and Triage


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