Sir Fleming revolutionised healthcare and treatment when he discovered penicillin in 1928 – a landmark which prompted the beginning of modern antibiotics. However, it would seem that he was even more ahead of his time than previously believed, saying antibiotic resistance could build up. William ‘Bill’ Frankland, a former student of Sir Fleming, said that if the pharmacologist were still alive he would say: “This is what I knew was going to happen.”
Dr Frankland said that in 1936, Sir Fleming told a class that overprescription of penicillin would be responsible for “the death of man”.
Dr Frankland told The Times: “He said, which sounded incredible at the time, it will be overused because it will be so successful.
“Bacteria are very clever and will form some bacteria which will not be killed by my penicillin.
“That was in 1936, so already he was anticipating what now is a great worry. As a student, I hardly knew what he was talking about.
“If Fleming was living to this day he would say, ‘This is what I knew was going to happen’.”
Scientists in recent years have only just begun to realise the dangers of anti-biotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistant superbugs are on the rise and have become a massive cause for concern for health professionals.
Such is the worry around antibiotic superbugs that experts believe that they will claim 10 million lives by 2050, with 700,000 people dying a year after catching the infections, according to a recent report from the American Chemical Society’s Enviromental Science and Technology Journal.
Humans, especially in the West, have become so reliant on antibiotics to help cure illnesses that many of the bacteria that they are trying to fight have become resistant to the drugs through evolution.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says: “New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability, and death.
“Without effective antimicrobials for prevention and treatment of infections, medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very high risk.
“Antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally over time, usually through genetic changes. However, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials is accelerating this process.
“In many places, antibiotics are overused and misused in people and animals, and often given without professional oversight.”