Social Philosophy

Antibiotics: the calm before the storm

Dr Michael Cannon
13th December 2017, 7:00pm

Of the huge number of known bacterial species fewer than one hundred can cause infectious disease in humans. Some of these infections are deadly although, normally, the vast majority can be cured by antibiotics. The latter's discovery in the early 20th century was a turning point in human history and countless lives have been saved by their use. Unfortunately, following the clinical introduction of antibiotics, the rapid development of specific mechanisms of bacterial resistance has plagued their therapeutic use and this has become a serious and frightening threat to humanity. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is actually an ancient, natural phenomenon but there seems little doubt that the current extent and severity of resistance is, at least in part, the consequence of human activities.

This lecture will explain what antibiotics are, where they come from and how they act. It will emphasise how bacteria actually become resistant to an antibiotic and how this process can, subsequently, give rise to the emergence of ‘Superbugs’, a world wide problem that could potentially have catastrophic consequences. Finally, it will summarise how human activities are implicated in the phenomenon and consider ways in which the current problems may, at least in part, be overcome. Unless urgent action is taken a return to the pre-antibiotic age may well be the fate of our descendants. 


About the Speaker

Dr Cannon was born in Bolton but now lives in St Albans. He was educated at Bolton School and has a Degree in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Manchester. He carried out 
post-doctoral research at Harvard University with the Nobel Laureate James Watson and subsequently accepted a research post at the National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, followed by a Lectureship in Biochemistry at the University of London, King's College, where he later became Reader in Biochemistry.
Dr Cannon has published over 100 original scientific papers and was awarded the Doctor of Science degree (ScD.) by the University of Cambridge for excellence in research.

Menu for Supper

Lancashire hotpot with crusty bread and pickled red cabbage
Mushroom and stilton pasta (v)
Chocolate fudge cake
Fresh Fruit Salad

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