Eastman Dental Institute


Beards, bugs and antibiotics – highlighting a crisis

1 March 2016


In December 2015 UCL Eastman’s Dr Adam Roberts assisted the BBC with an in-depth look at the microbiology of facial hair.

Trust Me I’m a Doctor (first broadcast 20 January BBC 2) investigated the belief that male beards contain a stockpile of dangerous bacteria.

However the team found no evidence to back up the claim.* They did however analyse the bacteria - as part of Adam’s Swab and Send project – and found that whiskers may hold untapped antibiotic potential.

The programme proved a fantastic opportunity, not only to debunk the myth but to highlight the current antibiotic resistance crisis.

Widely-read, follow up articles by Reuters and the Washington Post have helped spread the message that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics has enabled pathogenic bacteria to evolve resistance to almost all of the drugs prescribed to treat them.**

Adam said: “The investigation and program have obviously touched a nerve and I’m glad to have been a part of such a popular debunking.

“Scientific outreach work towards the general public is tremendously important. In the case of anti-biotic resistance, we all need to face this potentially catastrophic threat to our collective health.

“With an extra 10 million deaths predicted to be a direct result of antibiotic resistance by 2050 the need for public engagement, on what is a complex topic, is extremely urgent; especially as the public can directly affect the outcome by always using antibiotics correctly".

* Read more about the investigation.

** A video on the beard project, has also gathered nearly 4 million views and 65,000 shares via Facebook plus thousands of comments. The Swab and Send project has also had more than 2 million views so far this year.