By Rachel Burnett, EDUCATION AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT OFFICER
Antibiotic resistance is one of the “biggest threats to mankind’s well-being” and at the moment a solution has not been found.
To raise awareness of this issue, the Biochemical Society and Microbiology Society organised a panel discussion entitled “Living in a world without antibiotics” at the British Science Festival 2015. In front of an audience of 75 people, Dr Lloyd Czaplewski (Director at Chemical Biology Ventures), Victoria Wells (Science Communicator at The British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy) and Chair Dr Adam Roberts (Senior Lecturer in Microbial Diseases, University College London) discussed the consequences of a world without antibiotics.
Adam presented the audience with a list of medical and societal consequences; surgery would become high risk, people have shorter life spans, our society would become more risk averse and we could face economic and social instability. Basically, a lot more people would die.
After discussing the reasons behind the current failure to find new antibiotics, Lloyd highlighted research into possible alternatives to antibiotics.
To finish his engaging talk, Lloyd highlighted the charity Antibiotic Research UK which has been set up to encourage fund raising, research and discovery of treatments to bacterial infections.
Antibiotic Action is an independent UK-led global initiative funded by the British
Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC). Victoria discussed the
importance of this initiative in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Using antibiotics properly is the responsibility of everyone who uses them. Engaging the public with this message via social media, events, the press and education spreads this message. Encouraging the public to use antibiotics responsibly will put pressure on industrial companies to reduce the usage of antibiotics as growth promoters for agriculture, and to remove them from household cleaning products.
We then opened to questions from the audience, some of which are included below:
- Is there any research/trials using bacteriophage? And is any of the research from Russia from the early 20th Century being used today?
“Although this treatment has been used since 1923 in the former Soviet Union, it has not been tested in full clinical trials and does not meet the standards of Western Medicinal products. It involves infecting people with a live virus that kills bacteria, and accepting this treatment would require further testing and an adjustment of current attitudes.”
- How far do we understand the mechanisms of how bacterial infections occur?
“We now have a good understanding of how this works, and we have learned from antibiotic resistance that we need to use new treatments in a better way. We would like to be able to switch off the mechanisms for antibiotic resistance in bacteria, but this is very difficult. Perhaps we will be able to do this in 300 years!”
- Does Public Engagement work? Big headlines and scary news stories don’t, so what is it that we do in Public Engagement that is different and effective?
“We try to change our wording to standardise news stories around this topic. We also need to change our messaging to make sure the public realise the impact of antibiotic resistance. It’s also a case of building trust; many people don’t believe what they see and hear in the media, so they don’t follow the suggested protocols.”
We would like to thank our brilliant speakers for their engaging talks, the audience for their interesting questions and the British Science Festival for hosting this event.
To view all the tweets from this event, please see storify.
This event was covered by several news outlets:
The Times http://thetim.es/1Pny1T1
The Daily Express http://bit.ly/1KSh3OR
The Australian http://bit.ly/1iKvEzt
For more information about antibiotic resistance, please see the Biochemical Society and Microbiology Society’s booklet Living in a post-antibiotic era: the impact on public health