Policy Debate on Antibiotic Resistance

Date and time: Tuesday 31st March, 3.00-4.30 pm

Venue:  De Montfort University (Leicester) – Hawthorn Building, Lecture Theatre HB 1.30

Event information: This will be a BBC Question Time style debate with a panel and questions from the audience to discuss:

‘Are new antibiotics the only way to solve this crisis?’

The debate will be chaired by Ms Marilena Ioannou (Senior lecturer in Microbiology) and the panel will include a Consultant Microbiologist, a Clinician, University Academics and a student who works in bacteriology, antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.

The debate is free of charge to attend and is open to the public, so please bring along your colleagues, friends and family.

Event Organiser: Dr. Shivanthi Samarasinghe (ssamarasinghe@dmu.ac.uk)


Infectious disease experts universally agree that antibiotic resistance is a growing and potentially devastating problem. The main issue is how to tackle the problem. A new campaign in the UK is now urging doctors and patients to minimise the use of antibiotics unless completely necessary, so that the antibiotics we already have are likely to be useful for longer before bacteria evolve resistance against them. Another view is to concede that our current arsenal of antibiotics will become obsolete at a rate which we can do little about, and the only way we are going to tackle these emerging, multi antibiotic resistant bacteria is to develop new antibiotics as soon as possible.

A problem with this is how to convince pharmaceutical companies to pursue this, when there is currently minimal need for new drugs until the old, very cheap ones become obsolete.

Public opinion is split over who should lead the charge in developing new antibiotics. A large majority of respondents in a survey for Nesta said that the Government should collaborate with private companies to develop new drugs, but how would this work in practical terms? Is our current pharmaceutical industry set up to provide protection from infections that evolve more quickly than drugs can be developed?

What it means for us

Antibiotic resistance is an issue which affects almost all countries and societies, where the speed of evolution of bacteria against antibiotics is far exceeding the speed at which new antibiotics can be developed. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has already resulted in thousands of deaths in British hospitals, and few new antibiotics have been developed to reliably tackle it. If current antibiotics become redundant and new antibiotics or other methods are not found to replace them then routine procedures that we think of as ‘minor surgery’ could become life threatening. The standard of the healthcare on offer and the survival rate from common disease may lower to a point that the current generation would find unacceptable. Where should society focus efforts to solve the problem of antibiotic resistance?

 Come along and join us for what promises to be an interesting and informative debate!


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