Professor Peter Taylor (UCL School of Pharmacy) began his Lunch Hour Lecture with a chesty cough – an ironic note to the problems faced by both his immune system and society, as he notes you can’t, of course, cure a common cold with antibiotics. The confusion about this is just one of the reasons for the emergence of dangerous resistance to antibiotics – the subject of Professor Taylor’s Lecture.
He first presented the incontestable fact that antibiotics have changed the world. They are arguably the most important medical breakthrough of the 20th century, with the 1941 introduction of penicillin hailed as a ‘miracle cure’ for infections that could devastate populations (not least because of its serendipitous discovery by Alexander Fleming).
Our 70-year run of antibiotic use is a drop in the ocean compared to the 10,000 years that humans have faced – and succumbed – to these infections.