Main content

How Did We Mess up Antibiotics?

Many kinds of deadly bacteria are now resistant to most antibiotics and we are moving towards a world where antibiotics no longer work.

Warnings about the approaching post-antibiotics apocalypse have been sounding for years. There are now strains of deadly bacteria that are resistant to all antibiotics. This means that doctors are faced with patients who have completely untreatable infections. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are dying due to antibiotic resistance - and this number is set to rise rapidly. If we carry on like this, scientists predict we will return to a pre-antibiotic era, where organ transplants, chemotherapy and C-sections are impossible.

We have come a long way since 1928, when the famous chance discovery of penicillin led to a golden age in which antibiotics were seen as wonder drugs, heralding in an age of huge medical advances and increased human life spans. But by the 1990s we were running out of new antibiotics and infections were again a killer. How did this happen?

Our expert witnesses are medic and historian, Dr Eric Sidebottom, Dr Scott Podolsky of Harvard Medical School, journalist Maryn McKenna and infectious disease specialist Brad Spellberg.

(Photo: A depiction EHEC bacteria. Credit: HZI/Getty Images)

This edition of The Inquiry was first broadcast in October 2016.

Available now

23 minutes

Last on

Mon 12 Nov 2018 09:06GMT


  • Thu 8 Nov 2018 03:06GMT
  • Thu 8 Nov 2018 06:06GMT
  • Thu 8 Nov 2018 07:06GMT
  • Thu 8 Nov 2018 14:06GMT
  • Thu 8 Nov 2018 15:06GMT
  • Thu 8 Nov 2018 18:06GMT
  • Thu 8 Nov 2018 20:06GMT
  • Thu 8 Nov 2018 21:06GMT
  • Sat 10 Nov 2018 17:06GMT
  • Mon 12 Nov 2018 09:06GMT

North Korea's Nuclear Ambitions

North Korea's Nuclear Ambitions

A spotlight on how North Korea developed its nuclear weapons and its plans for them

The Best of The Inquiry

The Best of The Inquiry

Of 100 episodes made over 2 years, these are our favourite 12 programmes

The Inquiry Podcast

The Inquiry Podcast

Download every programme.