Drug-resistant superbugs are killers, and the problem is getting worse even as people become aware of the need to control how we use antibiotics.

Researchers estimate close to five million people died in 2019 because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria alone. Yet, doctors continue to overprescribe these lifesaving drugs and farmers continue to give them to livestock and fish not only to treat and prevent disease but to help them grow faster.

Now, a team of experts has shown clear links between the use of antibiotics in people and in animals.

Kasim Allel of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London and colleagues showed that the more antibiotics were used in people, the higher the rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals, and vice versa.

But overuse is not the only culprit.

Kasim’s team also found rates of antimicrobial resistance are worse in poorer countries. Sanitation and a lack of health care are both likely factors. Governments will have to do more to control antimicrobial resistance than simply limiting the use of these drugs.

Listen as Kasim explains the many different factors that are driving the rise of drug-resistant superbugs.


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Kasim Allel is a Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM, UK), whose research focuses on quantifying and understanding the burden of antimicrobial resistance in under-resourced settings to design practical interventions to improve population health. Specifically, how populations’ socioeconomic, environmental, spatial, and anthropological characteristics affect the transmission of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, especially those defined as critical by the World Health Organization (WHO), and further attributed burden and economic costs followed after infection.


Hosted and written by Maggie Fox
Special guest: Kasim Allel
Produced and edited by Samantha Serrano
Music composed and sound edited by Raquel Krügel