LSTM’s Dr Adam Roberts is the scientific consultant on a new Radio 4 drama which will be broadcast over the next two weeks.
The Truth About Hawaii is set in a near-future in which doctors can no longer prescribe antibiotics. It tells the story of Sarah, a 10-year-old living in a world where playing out is no longer the norm, but when a trip to the woods leads to a scratch on her knee which becomes infected, her family and medical experts race to stop the infection from spreading while facing the difficult choices that come about when the drugs no longer work.
Dr Roberts is a Senior Lecturer in Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and Resistance at LSTM and he and his team are exploring the evolutionary biology of bacteria to control antibiotic resistance and optimise prescribing practices so only the most appropriate antibiotics are used. He has also pioneered a citizen science project called Swab and Send, where members of the public, schools and other groups can swab their environment with the hope of discovering new antibiotic producing bacteria.
The Truth about Hawaii is the result of Wellcome Trust’s Experimental Stories workshop, where Dr Roberts was paired with the project’s writer Oliver Emanuel and Joanna Coast, Professor of Economics of Health & Care at the University of Bristol. They came up with the idea for the story and Dr Roberts has been involved throughout the process of commissioning and development.
“The story is a difficult one to tell,” explained Dr Roberts: “but it is clearly a very important one. Antibiotics underpin modern medicine; however, resistance is growing and there have been no new antibiotics developed for a number of decades. We already know of infections that can no longer be treated and there are predictions that deaths from antibiotic resistance could overtake those from cancer in the future if there is not a fundamental change in how we deal with this problem. We need a global response, where clinicians and researchers work with industry, agriculture and veterinary specialists to develop new drugs and preserve the ones that we have. If we don’t it will be our children, and their children, who have to sort it out.”
You can listen to The Truth About Hawaii on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 22nd January at 10.45am and 19.45pm.