One of the hot topics that might come up during your Med School interview is antibiotic resistance, because it’s a growing area of concern in Medicine. Make sure your interview prep includes reading about this issue and practising related interview questions.

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics are essential for treating bacterial infections. However, due to random mutations in their DNA, bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics, reducing their effectiveness. The survival of bacteria in a patient’s body allows the resistant genes to be passed to the next generation, leading to a rapidly reproducing colony and infection.

According to a recent government-backed report, annual deaths due to multiple drug resistance could reach 10 million by 2050 if the inappropriate use of antibiotics continues.

Drug resistance has become so widespread that it is now often customary for Doctors to prescribe multiple antibiotics to combat a single infection.

The number of drug-resistance bloodstream infections increased by 35% from 2013 to 2017.


Turn Interviews into Offers

Get the most popular interview prep, trusted by 1000s every year

Interview CoursesInterview Tutoring

What Is Causing Antibiotic Resistance?

Some of the key reasons why antibiotic resistance is increasing include:

  • Antibiotics are often prescribed in hospitals in developed countries.
  • Livestock is dosed with antibiotics – so eating meat and dairy products contributes to multiple drug resistance.

Perhaps the biggest contributing factor is that GPs feel the pressure to prescribe – and patients expect to walk away with antibiotics. This is an extensive issue:

There is also a lack of education around antibiotics, causing issues such as:

The regimen for antibiotic therapy can last days, weeks or even months, and patients frequently miss doses or even stop them entirely once they begin to feel an improvement. The most resistant bacteria survive, persist and multiply, and alternative antibiotics must be prescribed all over again.

Solutions For Antibiotic Resistance

There are a few key solutions that you need to know about:

  • GPs have been encouraged to prescribe more sparingly.
  • New guidance for medical professionals on prescribing antibiotics appropriately.
  • A push to reduce infections that are contracted from surgery.
  • Farmers are restricted in which antibiotics can be given to livestock.
  • Clinical Commissioning Groups have reduced the number of antibiotic prescriptions and the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
  • Public Health England has continued to push the education of infection-preventing public hygiene, such as handwashing.

There are some targets that the government has also set:

  • A 15% reduction in antibiotic use in humans by 2024.
  • A 25% drop in the use of antibiotics in animals from the 2016 levels by 2020, with this objective to be refreshed in 2021.

This is all detailed in a five-year plan and 20-year vision – read it here.


Save 20% on Interview Prep

Combine Doctor-delivered strategy with MMI Circuits & more

Interview & MMI Packages

A Push For New Drugs

Another solution comes in the form of incentivising pharmaceutical companies to research and develop drugs that can save lives by paying them based on how valuable the drugs are – instead of how many are sold. NICE and NHS England are going to trial this new subscription payment model.

Two drugs proven to be both safe and effective have been selected to undergo health technology assessment (HTA) by NICE, and this will determine the level of the subscription payment.

One of these drugs, teixobactin, was discovered and found to be effective against common bacterial infections. This new drug was isolated by using an electronic chip to grow antibiotic-producing microbes in soil. However, it is still years away from being tested on humans and may not even work against bacterial infections in humans.

New Therapies

Combination therapy may work to help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria by using two or more drugs together in order to increase the effectiveness of both drugs against bacteria that are resistant to normal antibiotics. Drugs working together in this way may even be effective against colistin-resistant bacteria.

The most controversial solution fielded so far is phage therapy. This process involves killing bacteria with a virus that lives inside bacterial cells but is so far unused in the West. Successful studies have been conducted in Russia, Georgia and Poland, but the risk of ingesting viruses has hindered the popularity of the method.

A Boost To Research

The Department of Health and Social Care has committed £32m for research centres to help improve prescribing and identify patterns of resistance. For example, University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospitals (UCLH) are going to try using artificial intelligence to help tackle antibiotic resistance. They hope this will enable earlier diagnosis and treatment with the appropriate antibiotic and dose.

Also, they aim to be able to more quickly identify cases where patients don’t have resistant infections to ensure that unnecessary treatment is not given.

Positive Signs of Improvement

In England, the total consumption of antibiotics in primary and secondary care declined by 9% from 2014 to 2018.

Antibiotic Resistance Questions

You might be asked questions about prescribing antibiotics in your interview – or you may be able to weave this topic into an answer about something broader, in order to show your knowledge. For example, the topic could come up in questions like:

  • Why is antibiotic resistance such a huge problem in the UK/the world?
  • What are the current major issues regarding antibiotic resistance?
  • Tell me about future treatments for antibiotic resistance and why they may be effective?
  • What are some big challenges that Doctors could face in the future?

Take a look at our Interview Question Bank for more questions you can practice.


Loading More Content