Today, most infections caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. This reality may change in the coming years: some disease-causing bacteria are developing mechanisms to evade the action of antibiotics, causing that, when starting an antibiotic treatment, it has no effect on the infections we suffer, and it is necessary to use alternative antibiotic treatments. This bacterial resistance to antibiotics has already become a global health problem responsible for 33,000 deaths annually in the European Union, a figure that could reach 10 million affected worldwide by 2050 if urgent measures are not taken, becoming the first cause of mortality. Unfortunately, we do not have new antibiotics as an alternative to current treatments that no longer have an effect against multidrug-resistant bacteria or superbugs.
With the aim of raising awareness and promoting knowledge about the global health problem that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) entails, the SAFE (Superbug Awareness For Education) project perform Learning – Service (SL) workshops for university and pre-university students of secondary education, training cycles and baccalaureate. These activities involve the training of university students on the problem of AMR, which at the same time transmit this knowledge to pre-university students. The process includes the search and isolation of bacterial strains from natural sources that produce antibiotics that will later be studied using microscopic, biochemical, and molecular techniques by experts. These practical activities have reached hundreds of students in southern Europe –the European region where the problem of bacterial resistance is most serious– obtaining a total of 102 bacterial strains with potentially antibiotic activity.
With the aim of making the SL methodology in microbiology reach primary or secondary school teachers so that they can replicate the practices independently, the SAFE team has designed an online course “Learn and teach: the problem of antimicrobial resistance and the search for of antibiotic-producing bacteria in classrooms” to expand knowledge about antibiotic resistance. This course offers a theoretical-practical training so that this knowledge can be applied directly to institutes where it is also intended to promote the vocation for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers. The course not only makes informative resources available to teaching staff in the field of AMR, but also offers presentations by the SAFE team and virtualized laboratory practices for a first practical approach to the world of research.
It is a priority to increase interest and awareness to build a society educated in prevention and action against possible global threats, such as the one we are currently facing with COVID-19, and an already existing silent pandemic: the antibiotic resistance. The results obtained in SAFE are highly encouraging when facing the need to provide new, efficient, inclusive, and accessible methodologies at all educational levels.
To promote the dissemination of the AMR problem, the SAFE team has participated in different festivals (Science Festival of the University of Barcelona, European Research Night, Science Week, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week) and international congresses (World Microbe Forum, Micromundo Symposium). Likewise, gathering contributions, misunderstandings and curiosities of society, dissemination campaigns have been designed and implemented in collaboration with university students of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona (UB), which has helped to disseminate knowledge in this area through small campaigns and its own informative resources.
Citizen participation has meant an approach to real knowledge of society for these UB students, highlighting the importance of maintaining active links between science and society to achieve a global impact on healthy habits and support for science.
Among all the generated resources, five students have been awarded for a stay at the pharmaceutical company Roche Diagnostics SL. The winning participants have been Lídia Edo, Judit Badia, Ainhoa Castell, Etna Papaseit and Anna Eggert. Ainhoa Castell decided to participate in the initiative “due to the importance of disseminating the antimicrobial resistance health problem to society in times like today”, Etna Papaseit was encouraged to participate in the project as it was related to the world of microbiology ” I am clear that my future will revolve around microbiology because I am really passionate about it, which has led me to enter into the antibiotic resistance world and learn a lot! ” The generation of these resources made them learn “that there are many people who appreciate these resources and who want to learn more and contribute with their grain of sand” (Judit Badia), and bet on creative audio-visual formats, to “join two branches and create something different and captivating ” (Lídia Edo). This process, based on citizen participation, has made Anna Eggert realize that “if people are willing to listen, they can be taught a lot. You just have to explain it in the right way, and so we can get the message to people, even if they don’t have scientific knowledge, and cause a positive impact”. All resources will be published throughout the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (November 18-24).
For more information about the course, future events, or the project, you can find us at: safeinitiative.eu