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Home » David Brenner: A New Weapon in the Fight Against Superbugs (Full Transcript)

David Brenner: A New Weapon in the Fight Against Superbugs (Full Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of stand-up comedian David Brenner’s Talk: A New Weapon in the Fight Against Superbugs at TED conference. 

David Brenner – Stand-up comedian

So we’re in a real live war at the moment, and it’s a war that we’re truly losing. It’s a war on superbugs. So you might wonder, if I’m going to talk about superbugs, why I’m showing you a photograph of some soccer fans — Liverpool soccer fans celebrating a famous victory in Istanbul, a decade ago. In the back, in the red shirt, well, that’s me, and next to me in the red hat, that’s my friend Paul Rice.

So a couple of years after this picture was taken, Paul went into hospital for some minor surgery, and he developed a superbug-related infection, and he died. And I was truly shocked. He was a healthy guy in the prime of life. So there and then, and actually with a lot of encouragement from a couple of TEDsters, I declared my own personal war on superbugs. So let’s talk about superbugs for a moment.

The story actually starts in the 1940s with the widespread introduction of antibiotics. And since then, drug-resistant bacteria have continued to emerge, and so we’ve been forced to develop newer and newer drugs to fight these new bacteria. And this vicious cycle actually is the origin of superbugs, which is simply bacteria for which we don’t have effective drugs. I’m sure you’ll recognize at least some of these superbugs. These are the more common ones around today.

Last year, around 700,000 people died from superbug-related diseases. Looking to the future, if we carry on on the path we’re going, which is basically a drugs-based approach to the problem, the best estimate by the middle of this century is that the worldwide death toll from superbugs will be 10 million. 10 million.

Just to put that in context, that’s actually more than the number of people that died of cancer worldwide last year. So it seems pretty clear that we’re not on a good road, and the drugs-based approach to this problem is not working.

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