Length: 7 mins 17 secs
The growing menace of antibiotic resistance has been the subject of increasing press attention in recent years. In this clip from the BBC’s medical magazine show Trust Me I’m A Doctor surgeon Gabriel Weston investigates a potential alternative to antibiotics, the use of bacteriophage in an approach known as Phage Therapy. This apparently novel approach has actually been the subject of extensive research over many decades in the former Soviet Union, especially in the Republic of Georgia. Patients whose diseases are proving resistance to more traditional Western treatments based on antibiotics are now travelling to the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi to try this alternative. Continue reading
URLs: (full episode) https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/0D9D7D7F
Clip 1 (6:43): https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/23517
Clip2 (6:16): https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/23518
The BBC’s rural affairs programme Countryfile (first broadcast on 9th October 2016) looked at ongoing issues with TB infection cattle populations. The topic was covered in two sections. The first focuses on the current tests for TB infection. The second looks more closely at the science being used to develop new tests and better vaccines against TB. Continue reading
Swaziland has declared the current TB epidemic a national emergency
Broadcaster: BBC 4
Reviewed by Emma Sterling
“It’s very difficult to cure XDR because we’re just giving what we have on the table. The reality of XDR is that it’s almost incurable.”
(WARNING: Distressing content): BBC 4’s long-format (90 minute) documentary TB: Return of the Plague, reports on the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in Swaziland, the country with the highest rate of infection in the world. Continue reading
“Eat your Christmas dinner and don’t worry”
Broadcaster: BBC News
Review by Emma Sterling
Bacteria resistant to the “last resort” antibiotic colistin have been found in the UK. Public Health England says the threat to human health is low. Clive Myrie speaks to health correspondent James Gallagher in this 2 minute clip.
The colistin-resistant bacteria were first reported on a farm in China in November 2015 and have since been found in Africa and other parts of Europe. Chinese researchers have found the mcr-1 gene that is responsible for this resistance.
Gallagher stresses that this does not mean these bacteria are unbeatable or that a bacterial apocalypse is nigh (we hope his “Eat your Christmas dinner and don’t worry” does not become the antibacterial version of Michael Fish’s famous promise that a hurricane was not on the way). Those that are resistant to colistin are currently susceptible to other antibiotics, but the discovery raises the spectre of an entirely resistant infection. If this was to occur then routine surgery and cancer therapies might be rendered unsafe.
For more on the story see the BBC News website, and for more scientific detail this article from Nature.
What risks do we have of catching the Ebola virus?
Broadcaster: BBC 1
Review by Will Channell
In this half-hour documentary, Medical doctor and researcher Chris Van Tulleken, investigates the epidemiology of the Ebola virus; with particular focus on the 2014 outbreak in West Africa, and the potential for the virus to get into the UK. This is a useful programme offering both public information on an important current affair and for use as an educational tool in the area of viral physiology and epidemiology.
The programme starts by giving background information on the outbreak, before quickly introducing ideas on how the British government are tackling it. Van Tulleken explores the secretive research facilities at Porton Down and the highly secure laboratories in which the Ebola virus is studied (http://bobnational.net/record/292484, 4 minute clip).
Using interviews combined with computer graphics, he guides the viewer through the physiology of the virus, explaining areas relevant to the virus’ pathogenicity. Following this the viewer is guided through the symptoms and treatment of Ebola using further interviews with people who have first-hand experience of the recent epidemic, including British survivor nurse Will Pooley and MSF doctor Javid Abdelmoneim.
Van Tulleken then draws the documentary to a close by detailing transmission of the virus. The emphasis is on reassuring the public of the improbability of infection in the UK. Several factors about the biology of Ebola make it relatively difficult to catch – it is not (currently) contagious by airborne transmission, you need to have contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the disease.
Any undergraduate microbiologists studying either the Ebola virus or viral epidemiology in general would find this documentary interesting. Despite only being half an hour long the show offers detailed information that would be useful as either a learning or revision tool. In addition to this it walks through the career roles of various research or healthcare scientists.
People interested in this programme might also benefit from the more recent documentary Outbreak: The truth about Ebola.
From time to time we will use BiologyOnTheBox to aggregate coverage on the same story from a number of different broadcast sources. This is one such post.
In 2014, David Cameron established a Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, under the chairmanship of economist Jim O’Neill (the man previously credited with coining the acronym BRIC to group together the emerging economies in Brazil, Russia, India and China). In December 2014 The review published their first report Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations followed in February 2015 with their second, Tackling a Global Health Crisis: Initial steps.
The press coverage described below comes from 14th May 2015, the day on which the Review published their most important report to date, Securing New Drugs for Future Generations: The pipeline of antibiotics. Publication of the report garnered widespread coverage, including the news items documented here. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but reflects the kinds of issues raised across the day (programmes are listed here in chronological order).
This file is actually a splice of two sections from the programme; a prefilmed package in which Fergus Walsh (1:50) gives background to the situation and includes an interview a woman who is immunocompromised following transplant surgery and therefore reliant on effective antimicrobials. The second part is one of the many interviews conducted with Jim O’Neill over the course of the day. He emphasises that this is a global problem, needing a global solution and that China may play a crucial role in their forthcoming role as chair of the G20. I was struck by his use of the notion of “enlightened self-interest” as a motivator for the pharma industry to become re-engaged in antimicrobial production. Continue reading
Research led by Roy Kishony uses a “morbidostat” to deliberately develop antibiotic resistant bacteria
Broadcaster: BBC 2
Review by Josh Sutton
Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is currently one of the largest problems facing modern medicine. The rise in cases of multiple drug resistance tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are only the best-known examples of a wider issue. In this Horizon documentary from 2012, the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance is covered, as well as reflections on the new treatments and drugs that scientists are developing to combat the growing resistance threat.
The importance of antibiotic resistance is immediately highlighted in the programme, with the story of a soldier put into a critical condition after his legs were blown off. His perilous state was actually due to an infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria he went on to develop: MRSA, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii. This infection could only be treated with antibiotics of last resort, which were toxic to both the bacteria and the soldier himself. Continue reading
Edward Jenner made a crucial breakthrough in developing vaccination, though his experiment was unethical by modern standards
Broadcaster: BBC 1
The role of Edward Jenner in developing vaccination has been told many times on TV. This 6.5 minute clip from a Countryfile “Heroes of farming” special visits Jenner’s house in Gloucestershire to tell the famous story. Drawing on the wisdom of local dairymaids, Jenner took pustules from people infected with cowpox and deliberately introduced material from the pustules into local children. This work would not get through an ethical review today!
Anita Rana then brings the story of vaccination up to date by visiting the Pirbright Institute, where a new vaccine against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is being developed. A vaccine against FMD already exists, but the production involves use of the live virus, with inherent risks. The new vaccine retains the protective element without the infective.
Some papers have run campaigns calling for a boycott of polio vaccine
Broadcaster: Channel 4
In most countries of the world, polio has been tamed by effective vaccination. The disease is only endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. This 24 minute programme looks at the activities of the vaccination teams in Pakistan who continue in their drive to immunise the nation’s children. In 2011 the CIA pretended to be a vaccination team to search for Osama Bin Laden, and this is one factor contributing to growing resistance. Lies about the manufacture and harmful side effects of the vaccine are pedalled. The Taliban vociferously oppose the vaccination programme and some of the team have been murdered (four were shot during the time the programme was being filmed).
In the face of these threats, the vaccineers have had to adapt their methods – including boarding trains as they wait for a few minutes at a station with the hope of vaccinating all children aboard. This in itself may not be enough, children need at least five doses of the vaccine to be protected, but they will treat who they can, when they can.
In other drives, the team go house-to-house, including in areas where there is open hostility. For this they receive pay of £1.50 per day. Frequently their offers to vaccinate children are rejected.
An interesting ethical quandary occurs 12 minutes into the episode. Finding some children home in the absence of their parents, the team go in and give the vaccine to a baby before trying, unsuccessfully, to bribe another boy to come out of hiding under a sofa to receive treatment. Continue reading
Following a public vote, the money was eventually awarded to the battle against antibiotic resistance
Broadcaster: BBC 2
Review by Lorna McCall
Although 2014 may have been the first time many people had heard of it, the Longitude Prize is not new. In fact it was the combination of the 300th anniversary of the prize and the 50th anniversary of the Horizon TV programme that led to this highly publicised competition to find a worthy winner of £10 million pounds to make a significant impact in tackling one of six key problems: antibiotic resistance, paralysis, malnutrition, carbon emission from jet engines, inadequate supply of fresh water and living with dementia.
This summary focuses on the four most biologically-related topics. Each section is available as a specific clip (click on subheadings below for links).
Antibiotics (7.5 minute segment, starting at 05:28)
The first area of research discussed in the programme relates to appropriate use of antibiotics (see this link for clip). The rise of antibiotic resistance over the years means that 5000 patients in the UK already die every year due to treatment being ineffective. It is important to have antibiotics in order to prevent small infections becoming deadly; or to prevent infection in the first instance for example during routine surgeries. Continue reading