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It’s hard to overstate the impact of antibiotics on the way we live. But the story of antibiotics is a cautionary one. And unhelpful economic incentives are in large part to blame

In 1928 a young bacteriologist named Alexander Fleming failed to tidy up his petri dishes before going home to Scotland on holiday. On his return, he famously noticed that one dish had become mouldy in his absence, and the mould was killing the bacteria he’d used the dish to cultivate. It’s hard to overstate the impact of antibiotics on medicine, farming and the way we live. But, as Tim Harford explains, the story of antibiotics is a cautionary one. And unhelpful economic incentives are in large part to blame.

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editors: Richard Knight and Richard Vadon

(Image: Penicillin Fungi, Credit: Science Photo/Shutterstock)

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9 minutes

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Tue 24 Jan 2017 23:50GMT

Sources and related links

Philip Lymbery and Isabel Oakeshott  - Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat, Bloomsbury, 2014, pp306-307

Antimicrobials in agriculture and the environment: Reducing unnecessary use and waste. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Chaired by Jim O’Neill, December 2015

Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Chaired by Jim O’Neill, December 2014

Antimicrobials in agriculture and the environment: Reducing unnecessary use and waste. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Chaired by Jim O’Neill, December 2015 

Alexander Fleming

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