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Michael Mosley vs The Superbugs - BBC Four

Michael Mosley discovers he has e-coli in his gut - Michael Mosley vs The Superbugs - BBC Four

Presenter, Michael Mosley discovers he has antibiotic resistant bacteria inside his body.

For 70 years we've waged war against harmful bacteria using antibiotics. But bacteria are fighting back and today more and more bacterial infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Drug-resistant superbugs are spreading; not just MRSA - also TB, pneumonia, e-coli. In Britain, hundreds are already dying of these infections - mainly the very young or the frail and elderly. But experts warn that unless we crack the problem, by 2050 we'll be facing a massive health crisis with over 10 million people dying of resistant bacterial infection worldwide every year.

Michael Mosley goes in search of the causes of this crisis and new solutions to overcome it. Have we caused the resistant superbug crisis by overusing antibiotics?

At the heart of the film is an unprecedented experiment using "Microbial Michael", a life-sized living bacterial clone of Michael Mosley. Using microbes taken from all over his body and grown on his clone we set out to find out what happens when we take a powerful broad spectrum antibiotic. What are the effects of the antibiotic on our bacteria - both beneficial bacteria and potentially harmful bugs we have on our bodies?

Michael discovers to his surprise that growing on his clone are bugs that have acquired resistance to antibiotics - and that some of them
could even turn nasty if his immune system were ever to become compromised. It's worrying news.

But how do bacteria acquire resistance to antibiotics? In New Mexico, Michael discovers that deep down in a hard-to-access cave system are bacteria able to resist nearly every antibiotic we use in modern medicine. Yet they have never - in millennia - had any interaction with humans or our medicines. How can this have happened?

It makes sense when we learn that antibiotics are not man-made; rather they're chemical weapons made by one species of bacteria to target and destroy other kinds of rival bacteria. And in order to survive, the target bacteria have had to evolve resistance; it's a natural process that's been going on for millions of years - long before the discovery of penicillin.

What does this mean for us, and for our dependence on antibiotics - are we off the hook? The answer is a firm no - because although the
development of resistance is a natural process, nonetheless our overuse of antibiotics in medicine and farming massively accelerates the process. So we need to use our existing antibiotics more carefully, and we desperately need new antibiotics.

In a trip that will take us to the US, to Poland and to research labs around the UK we'll meet the 'resistance hunters' - scientists who are trying to find new ways of beating resistant superbugs. And in a finale to the Microbial Michael experiment, some of his bacterial clone's body parts - his face and his hands - are infected with superbugs. Can any of the new treatments get rid of them?

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