Tag Archives: Science

Nine advances in medical science that help the NHS save lives

Vaccines

Within five years of the birth of the NHS, a mass vaccination programme was in place to immunise children against some of the most serious diseases of the day: tuberculosis, smallpox, diphtheria and whooping cough. In 1956, the polio vaccine was introduced, followed in 1968 by a vaccine for measles. The next big step forward was the introduction of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in 1988, and by the early 2000s, children were also receiving vaccines against different forms of meningitis. The HPV vaccine to protect girls against cervical cancer was introduced in 2008. Vaccination has been hugely successful, eradicating smallpox altogether and nearly eradicating polio and other diseases such as diphtheria; only a handful of such cases are now reported each year and they rarely prove fatal.

Keyhole surgery

Keyhole surgery


Keyhole surgery has been widely used since the 1990s. Photograph: Getty Images/Westend61

Keyhole surgery, or laparoscopy, in which surgeons make small incisions through which they insert thin instruments and a tiny camera to see what they’re doing, has been widely used since the 1990s. An operation that would once have involved a large incision can now be carried out with minimum impact. Helgi Johannsson, a consultant anaesthetist at Imperial College Healthcare, describes keyhole surgery as “one of the greatest advances in surgery of recent times”, adding that it has “significantly reduced complication rates, pain, and the time in hospital. Operations that previously would have resulted in a long stay in hospital now [allow patients to] go home after a few hours, thanks to keyhole surgery and improvements in anaesthetic drugs and techniques.”

Antibiotics

Alexander Fleming


Other antibiotics soon followed the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Photograph: Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 arguably represents the greatest medical advance in the 20th century, though a team of researchers at the University of Oxford carried out the critical steps that enabled the substance to be used to cure bacterial infections. Other antibiotics soon followed, and diseases that once killed millions of people, such as tuberculosis, could now be cured. The NHS now issues more than 30m prescriptions a year for antibiotics, but a new threat has emerged: 5,000-12,000 people die each year in the UK from antibiotic-resistant infections. Unless we alter prescribing patterns, warns Dr Hamira Ul-Haque, medical officer at Push Doctor, we could “potentially return modern medicine to the pre-antibiotic era of untreatable and fatal infections.”

Medical imaging

An MRI scan


The 1970s saw the advent of the MRI scan.
Photograph: Sigrid Gombert/Getty Images/Cultura Exclusive

X-rays have been available since the 19th century, but the 1970s saw the advent of two other revolutionary technologies: the computed tomography (CT) scan, sometimes referred to as a Cat scan, and the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Both can produce very clear images of the inside of the body, including internal organs, blood vessels and bones, making it possible to detect and diagnose diseases such as stokes and cancer, as well as joint damage or internal organ damage. The number of scans carried out by the NHS rises annually, however, it currently stands at 40m a year, a figure that includes X-rays and ultrasound as well as MRI and CT scans. Combined with a growing shortage of radiologists, this increased demand is adding to the pressure on the NHS.

Organ transplants

Dr Christian Bernard (left).


Dr Christiaan Barnard, left, carried out the first successful heart transplant in 1967. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

In 1954, just six years after the NHS was founded, surgeons Joseph Murray and J Hartwell Harrison in Boston, US, carried out the first successful organ transplant, taking a kidney from one donor and transferring it to his identical twin brother. Other organ transplants followed, including the first successful heart transplant in 1967, carried out by Dr Christiaan Barnard. The same year saw the first successful liver transplant. In 2016-17, the NHS carried out 4,139 organ transplants, the vast majority from donors who had died, though the figure includes 921 kidney transplants and 30 partial liver transplants from living donors. Many more lives could be saved, however, if more people joined the Organ Donor Register: about 7,000 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant at any one time.

Safety culture in anaesthesia

Nurse holding anaesthesia mask


The WHO Surgical Safety Checklist has had a major impact. Photograph: Shannon Fagan/Getty Images

Sometimes the simplest of changes can make a huge difference. “There have been enormous strides forward in understanding how human behaviour causes error,” says Johannsson. He cites the introduction of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist in 2008, which has a series of checks to make before and after surgery, as having a major impact – research has shown that implementation of the checklist reduces complication resulting from surgery by one-third and deaths from surgery by half. Safety checks include confirming enough blood is on hand and medical staff introducing themselves, which is crucial to clear communication in an operating environment that contains health professionals of different specialisms and backgrounds.

Pacemakers

Surgeon Holding Heart Pacemaker


In the UK, about 25,000 people have a pacemaker fitted each year. Photograph: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

The cardiac pacemaker was invented in 1949 by a Canadian electrical engineer, John Hopps, who discovered that electrical stimulation could keep the heart beating in hypothermic dogs. Nine years later, Arne Larsson, a 43-year-old Swede, was suffering from cardiac arrhythmia, which had worsened as a result of a viral infection, and had a heartrate of only 28 beats a minute. Cardiologist Rune Elmqvist carried out the operation to insert the pacemaker, after which Larsson survived to the age of 86. Today, about 25,000 people in the UK have a pacemaker fitted each year. GP May Jay Ali has seen the impact on patients with a very slow heartrate: “They go into hospital and have a pacemaker and come out two days later – and that’s their life saved. It has been significant.”

Antiretroviral therapy for HIV

Tablets


Treatment using a combination of antiretroviral drugs means HIV can be managed. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

When Aids, caused by the HIV virus, took hold in the 1980s, there was no cure. The first case of Aids was diagnosed in the UK in 1981 and over the next few years Aids/HIV became an epidemic, killing almost 9,000 people before 1994. Development of a treatment using a combination of antiretroviral drugs in the late 1990s means that HIV can be managed: approximately 100,000 people are now living with the virus in the UK. “When I was a medical student in 1994 HIV was a death sentence,” Johannsson recalls. “The HIV wards were overflowing with incredibly sick patients and death was a daily occurrence. Two years later when I returned, the service had transformed, and death was rare. However, there is still a long way to go to eradicate HIV worldwide.”

Understanding the human genome

Scientists looking at DNA model


The human genome has helped scientists better understand diseases such as cystic fibrosis. Photograph: Adam Gault/Getty Images

Since the human genome was mapped in 2003, it has helped scientists better understand diseases caused by mutations in a single gene inherited from parents, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease. Doctors now hope that they will be able to treat inherited diseases through gene therapy, which involves either introducing “good” genes into targeted cells to treat a patient, or modifying the genes in egg or sperm cells. In other diseases, combined mutations in multiple genes can lead to a predisposition to certain illnesses, such as breast cancer. By understanding a patient’s genetic make-up, doctors will be able to predict the development of a disease and intervene early. There is still a long way to go, but genetics holds out a great deal of promise.

Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to read more pieces like this. And follow us on Twitter (@GdnHealthcare) to keep up with the latest healthcare news and views

If you’re looking for a healthcare job or need to recruit staff, visit Guardian Jobs

Nine advances in medical science that help the NHS save lives

Vaccines

Within five years of the birth of the NHS, a mass vaccination programme was in place to immunise children against some of the most serious diseases of the day: tuberculosis, smallpox, diphtheria and whooping cough. In 1956, the polio vaccine was introduced, followed in 1968 by a vaccine for measles. The next big step forward was the introduction of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in 1988, and by the early 2000s, children were also receiving vaccines against different forms of meningitis. The HPV vaccine to protect girls against cervical cancer was introduced in 2008. Vaccination has been hugely successful, eradicating smallpox altogether and nearly eradicating polio and other diseases such as diphtheria; only a handful of such cases are now reported each year and they rarely prove fatal.

Keyhole surgery

Keyhole surgery


Keyhole surgery has been widely used since the 1990s. Photograph: Getty Images/Westend61

Keyhole surgery, or laparoscopy, in which surgeons make small incisions through which they insert thin instruments and a tiny camera to see what they’re doing, has been widely used since the 1990s. An operation that would once have involved a large incision can now be carried out with minimum impact. Helgi Johannsson, a consultant anaesthetist at Imperial College Healthcare, describes keyhole surgery as “one of the greatest advances in surgery of recent times”, adding that it has “significantly reduced complication rates, pain, and the time in hospital. Operations that previously would have resulted in a long stay in hospital now [allow patients to] go home after a few hours, thanks to keyhole surgery and improvements in anaesthetic drugs and techniques.”

Antibiotics

Alexander Fleming


Other antibiotics soon followed the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Photograph: Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 arguably represents the greatest medical advance in the 20th century, though a team of researchers at the University of Oxford carried out the critical steps that enabled the substance to be used to cure bacterial infections. Other antibiotics soon followed, and diseases that once killed millions of people, such as tuberculosis, could now be cured. The NHS now issues more than 30m prescriptions a year for antibiotics, but a new threat has emerged: 5,000-12,000 people die each year in the UK from antibiotic-resistant infections. Unless we alter prescribing patterns, warns Dr Hamira Ul-Haque, medical officer at Push Doctor, we could “potentially return modern medicine to the pre-antibiotic era of untreatable and fatal infections.”

Medical imaging

An MRI scan


The 1970s saw the advent of the MRI scan.
Photograph: Sigrid Gombert/Getty Images/Cultura Exclusive

X-rays have been available since the 19th century, but the 1970s saw the advent of two other revolutionary technologies: the computed tomography (CT) scan, sometimes referred to as a Cat scan, and the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Both can produce very clear images of the inside of the body, including internal organs, blood vessels and bones, making it possible to detect and diagnose diseases such as stokes and cancer, as well as joint damage or internal organ damage. The number of scans carried out by the NHS rises annually, however, it currently stands at 40m a year, a figure that includes X-rays and ultrasound as well as MRI and CT scans. Combined with a growing shortage of radiologists, this increased demand is adding to the pressure on the NHS.

Organ transplants

Dr Christian Bernard (left).


Dr Christiaan Barnard, left, carried out the first successful heart transplant in 1967. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

In 1954, just six years after the NHS was founded, surgeons Joseph Murray and J Hartwell Harrison in Boston, US, carried out the first successful organ transplant, taking a kidney from one donor and transferring it to his identical twin brother. Other organ transplants followed, including the first successful heart transplant in 1967, carried out by Dr Christiaan Barnard. The same year saw the first successful liver transplant. In 2016-17, the NHS carried out 4,139 organ transplants, the vast majority from donors who had died, though the figure includes 921 kidney transplants and 30 partial liver transplants from living donors. Many more lives could be saved, however, if more people joined the Organ Donor Register: about 7,000 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant at any one time.

Safety culture in anaesthesia

Nurse holding anaesthesia mask


The WHO Surgical Safety Checklist has had a major impact. Photograph: Shannon Fagan/Getty Images

Sometimes the simplest of changes can make a huge difference. “There have been enormous strides forward in understanding how human behaviour causes error,” says Johannsson. He cites the introduction of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist in 2008, which has a series of checks to make before and after surgery, as having a major impact – research has shown that implementation of the checklist reduces complication resulting from surgery by one-third and deaths from surgery by half. Safety checks include confirming enough blood is on hand and medical staff introducing themselves, which is crucial to clear communication in an operating environment that contains health professionals of different specialisms and backgrounds.

Pacemakers

Surgeon Holding Heart Pacemaker


In the UK, about 25,000 people have a pacemaker fitted each year. Photograph: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

The cardiac pacemaker was invented in 1949 by a Canadian electrical engineer, John Hopps, who discovered that electrical stimulation could keep the heart beating in hypothermic dogs. Nine years later, Arne Larsson, a 43-year-old Swede, was suffering from cardiac arrhythmia, which had worsened as a result of a viral infection, and had a heartrate of only 28 beats a minute. Cardiologist Rune Elmqvist carried out the operation to insert the pacemaker, after which Larsson survived to the age of 86. Today, about 25,000 people in the UK have a pacemaker fitted each year. GP May Jay Ali has seen the impact on patients with a very slow heartrate: “They go into hospital and have a pacemaker and come out two days later – and that’s their life saved. It has been significant.”

Antiretroviral therapy for HIV

Tablets


Treatment using a combination of antiretroviral drugs means HIV can be managed. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

When Aids, caused by the HIV virus, took hold in the 1980s, there was no cure. The first case of Aids was diagnosed in the UK in 1981 and over the next few years Aids/HIV became an epidemic, killing almost 9,000 people before 1994. Development of a treatment using a combination of antiretroviral drugs in the late 1990s means that HIV can be managed: approximately 100,000 people are now living with the virus in the UK. “When I was a medical student in 1994 HIV was a death sentence,” Johannsson recalls. “The HIV wards were overflowing with incredibly sick patients and death was a daily occurrence. Two years later when I returned, the service had transformed, and death was rare. However, there is still a long way to go to eradicate HIV worldwide.”

Understanding the human genome

Scientists looking at DNA model


The human genome has helped scientists better understand diseases such as cystic fibrosis. Photograph: Adam Gault/Getty Images

Since the human genome was mapped in 2003, it has helped scientists better understand diseases caused by mutations in a single gene inherited from parents, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease. Doctors now hope that they will be able to treat inherited diseases through gene therapy, which involves either introducing “good” genes into targeted cells to treat a patient, or modifying the genes in egg or sperm cells. In other diseases, combined mutations in multiple genes can lead to a predisposition to certain illnesses, such as breast cancer. By understanding a patient’s genetic make-up, doctors will be able to predict the development of a disease and intervene early. There is still a long way to go, but genetics holds out a great deal of promise.

Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to read more pieces like this. And follow us on Twitter (@GdnHealthcare) to keep up with the latest healthcare news and views

If you’re looking for a healthcare job or need to recruit staff, visit Guardian Jobs

Nestle says it has harnessed science to reduce the sugar in chocolate

Nestle is claiming a world first by “restructuring” the sugar it uses in its confectionery to produce a white chocolate bar with 30% less sugar than its usual Milkybar brand.

Nestle is the world’s leading producer of packaged foods, but the new “structured sugar” is being produced in its factory in Dalston in Cumbria, a result of UK government pressure on food companies to cut the sugar in their products to help curb childhood obesity. Chocolate and confectionery companies are thought to have an uphill task, because sugar is intrinsic to their products.

The sugar in the new product, named Milkybar Wowsomes, is “amorphous and porous”, says the company, made by spraying sugar, milk and water into warm air and drying the mixture.

“The milk stabilises the spray-dried sugar and stops it becoming too sticky”, Nestle explained in a statement. The resulting sugar dissolves faster, like candy floss, it says, giving a sweeter taste in the mouth. Nestle claims that both adult and child tasters like it.

Nestle is the world’s leading producer of packaged foods, but the “structured sugar” is specifically a response to the UK pressure, and it was invented partly in York and produced in its factory in Dalston.

Nestle’s spray dried “structured sugar” under the microscope.


Nestle’s spray dried “structured sugar” under the microscope. Photograph: Nestle

Public Health England (PHE) last year set a voluntary target of a 20% decrease in sugar by 2020, including a 5% cut in the first 12 months. It is due to issue a report shortly on the progress – or lack of it – that food manufacturers have made towards the first year target. The sugary drinks levy is a separate Treasury initiative, due to begin on April 6th.

PHE’s chief nutritionist, Dr Alison Tedstone, was enthusiastic about the new reduced sugar chocolate bar. “This latest announcement shows innovation has a role to play in making everyday foods healthier and Nestlé’s leadership in this area should be applauded,” she said.

“We hope this announcement will encourage other companies to explore the use of technology to make significant reductions and produce healthier products to meet the government’s 20% target by 2020.”

The company says Milkybar Wowsomes’ main ingredient is milk and it contains oat cereal pieces – which allows it to claim it is also a source of fibre. The largest single bars are 18g and contain 95 calories, it says, although it will also sell bags containing pieces totalling 105g.

“We announced earlier this month that we have taken out more than 60 billion calories and 2.6 billion teaspoons of sugar from across our food and drink portfolio in the last three years,” said Stefano Agostini, CEO of Nestlé UK & Ireland. “A new product like Milkybar Wowsomes introduces greater choice and allows parents to treat their children with chocolate that tastes great but has less sugar. We are demonstrating how we can, and will, contribute to a healthier future and that we take our public health responsibilities very seriously.”

Atishoo! The science of sneezing properly

Name: Sneezing.

Appearance: Yucky.

Also known as: Sternutation.

Oh come on. I know what sneezing is. Sure, but the question is: do you know how to do it?

Sneezing is an autonomous process, so I don’t have to know how to do it. Ha! It’s semi-autonomous, yes, but there are still decisions to make. Whether to pinch your nose shut, where to sneeze, whether to shout at the same time …

Shout-sneezers annoy me. Everyone annoys you. How about where to do it?

Are you saying I should rush to the toilet or something? No. But you must still choose where to direct the sneeze.

Into a disposable tissue. Isn’t that right? Yes. But what if you don’t have a tissue, or you can’t get it out in time? Where do you sneeze then?

Towards someone I don’t like. What if you like everybody within range?

That’s rare. I don’t know. Into my hand, maybe? Wrong! Sneezing into your hand just covers your hand with nose goo, which you’re then likely to spread. You should sneeze into your elbow.

My elbow? I can’t reach. The inside of your elbow, dummkopf. Bury your nose in there when you sneeze. That’s the official advice of the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the best course of action when you cough, too.

This is revolutionary! Why am I only hearing about it now? It has been catching on slowly over the past decade.

Do I have to wash my elbow afterwards? When you get the chance, sure, but I’m guessing people don’t touch the inside of your elbow very often.

Sadly, no. What if I’m wearing sleeves? Do I remove my shirt and throw it away? That might be expensive and awkward. No, that’s fine. But it’s probably a good idea to wash your clothes regularly when you’re ill.

How about pinching my nose and closing my mouth? Isn’t that even more hygienic? I don’t know. Maybe. But you may also do yourself a mischief.

How can you hurt yourself by suppressing a sneeze? Last month, the British Medical Journal reported the case of a man who tore his throat in the process.

Um … OK. Maybe I won’t do that. Good plan.

Do say: “You’re going to sneeze, I can tell. Here it comes … bless you!”

Don’t say: “Aargh! You put me off! Now it has gone away again.”

Atishoo! The science of sneezing properly

Name: Sneezing.

Appearance: Yucky.

Also known as: Sternutation.

Oh come on. I know what sneezing is. Sure, but the question is: do you know how to do it?

Sneezing is an autonomous process, so I don’t have to know how to do it. Ha! It’s semi-autonomous, yes, but there are still decisions to make. Whether to pinch your nose shut, where to sneeze, whether to shout at the same time …

Shout-sneezers annoy me. Everyone annoys you. How about where to do it?

Are you saying I should rush to the toilet or something? No. But you must still choose where to direct the sneeze.

Into a disposable tissue. Isn’t that right? Yes. But what if you don’t have a tissue, or you can’t get it out in time? Where do you sneeze then?

Towards someone I don’t like. What if you like everybody within range?

That’s rare. I don’t know. Into my hand, maybe? Wrong! Sneezing into your hand just covers your hand with nose goo, which you’re then likely to spread. You should sneeze into your elbow.

My elbow? I can’t reach. The inside of your elbow, dummkopf. Bury your nose in there when you sneeze. That’s the official advice of the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the best course of action when you cough, too.

This is revolutionary! Why am I only hearing about it now? It has been catching on slowly over the past decade.

Do I have to wash my elbow afterwards? When you get the chance, sure, but I’m guessing people don’t touch the inside of your elbow very often.

Sadly, no. What if I’m wearing sleeves? Do I remove my shirt and throw it away? That might be expensive and awkward. No, that’s fine. But it’s probably a good idea to wash your clothes regularly when you’re ill.

How about pinching my nose and closing my mouth? Isn’t that even more hygienic? I don’t know. Maybe. But you may also do yourself a mischief.

How can you hurt yourself by suppressing a sneeze? Last month, the British Medical Journal reported the case of a man who tore his throat in the process.

Um … OK. Maybe I won’t do that. Good plan.

Do say: “You’re going to sneeze, I can tell. Here it comes … bless you!”

Don’t say: “Aargh! You put me off! Now it has gone away again.”

Fighting infection: from Joseph Lister to superbugs – Science Weekly podcast

Subscribe & Review on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud & Acast, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

In March 1867, the Lancet published an article by surgeon Joseph Lister that would change the healthcare landscape completely. The article was the first of several, detailing the culmination of Lister’s life work exploring the connection between germs and infection. Fast forward a century-and-a-half and today Joseph Lister is widely known as the father of antiseptic surgery, saving countless lives both in hospitals and further afield. But how was it that Lister came to his groundbreaking conclusions? How did his colleagues react? And, looking at the present situation, what challenges might we face that Lister would be all too familiar with?

This week, helping Nicola Davis delve into the life and work of Joseph Lister is Dr Lindsey Fitzharris, historian of science and author of The Butchering Art. And to help join the dots between Lister’s groundbreaking work and the challenges healthcare professionals face today – including antibiotic resistance – is chief medical officer for England and chief medical advisor to the UK government Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Fighting infection: from Joseph Lister to superbugs – Science Weekly podcast

Subscribe & Review on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud & Acast, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

In March 1867, the Lancet published an article by surgeon Joseph Lister that would change the healthcare landscape completely. The article was the first of several, detailing the culmination of Lister’s life work exploring the connection between germs and infection. Fast forward a century-and-a-half and today Joseph Lister is widely known as the father of antiseptic surgery, saving countless lives both in hospitals and further afield. But how was it that Lister came to his groundbreaking conclusions? How did his colleagues react? And, looking at the present situation, what challenges might we face that Lister would be all too familiar with?

This week, helping Nicola Davis delve into the life and work of Joseph Lister is Dr Lindsey Fitzharris, historian of science and author of The Butchering Art. And to help join the dots between Lister’s groundbreaking work and the challenges healthcare professionals face today – including antibiotic resistance – is chief medical officer for England and chief medical advisor to the UK government Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Fighting infection: from Joseph Lister to superbugs – Science Weekly podcast

Subscribe & Review on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud & Acast, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

In March 1867, the Lancet published an article by surgeon Joseph Lister that would change the healthcare landscape completely. The article was the first of several, detailing the culmination of Lister’s life work exploring the connection between germs and infection. Fast forward a century-and-a-half and today Joseph Lister is widely known as the father of antiseptic surgery, saving countless lives both in hospitals and further afield. But how was it that Lister came to his groundbreaking conclusions? How did his colleagues react? And, looking at the present situation, what challenges might we face that Lister would be all too familiar with?

This week, helping Nicola Davis delve into the life and work of Joseph Lister is Dr Lindsey Fitzharris, historian of science and author of The Butchering Art. And to help join the dots between Lister’s groundbreaking work and the challenges healthcare professionals face today – including antibiotic resistance – is chief medical officer for England and chief medical advisor to the UK government Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Fighting infection: from Joseph Lister to superbugs – Science Weekly podcast

Subscribe & Review on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud & Acast, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

In March 1867, the Lancet published an article by surgeon Joseph Lister that would change the healthcare landscape completely. The article was the first of several, detailing the culmination of Lister’s life work exploring the connection between germs and infection. Fast forward a century-and-a-half and today Joseph Lister is widely known as the father of antiseptic surgery, saving countless lives both in hospitals and further afield. But how was it that Lister came to his groundbreaking conclusions? How did his colleagues react? And, looking at the present situation, what challenges might we face that Lister would be all too familiar with?

This week, helping Nicola Davis delve into the life and work of Joseph Lister is Dr Lindsey Fitzharris, historian of science and author of The Butchering Art. And to help join the dots between Lister’s groundbreaking work and the challenges healthcare professionals face today – including antibiotic resistance – is chief medical officer for England and chief medical advisor to the UK government Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Fighting infection: from Joseph Lister to superbugs – Science Weekly podcast

Subscribe & Review on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud & Acast, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

In March 1867, the Lancet published an article by surgeon Joseph Lister that would change the healthcare landscape completely. The article was the first of several, detailing the culmination of Lister’s life work exploring the connection between germs and infection. Fast forward a century-and-a-half and today Joseph Lister is widely known as the father of antiseptic surgery, saving countless lives both in hospitals and further afield. But how was it that Lister came to his groundbreaking conclusions? How did his colleagues react? And, looking at the present situation, what challenges might we face that Lister would be all too familiar with?

This week, helping Nicola Davis delve into the life and work of Joseph Lister is Dr Lindsey Fitzharris, historian of science and author of The Butchering Art. And to help join the dots between Lister’s groundbreaking work and the challenges healthcare professionals face today – including antibiotic resistance – is chief medical officer for England and chief medical advisor to the UK government Professor Dame Sally Davies.