The results of an initiative aimed at finding microbes capable of fighting superbugs have been revealed as part of an antimicrobial resistance awareness event at the University of Nottingham.
The project, led by third-year student Alice Huxley in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, asked visitors to the school’s open days, community engagement events and school visits over the past year to do some hands-on microbiology by collecting and plating swabs from the environment around them. With her tutors, Dr Adam Blanchard and Dr Sabine Tötemeyer, Alice later cultured the swabs in the lab and tested the microbes for their bug-busting abilities.
Since September, a total of 266 returned swabs uncovered 11 microbes which inhibited the growth of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and 7 which tackled multi-drug resistant E.coli from samples collected from places as diverse as car wheel hubs, wheelie bins, shoes and the keys of a piano.
The event at the University’s Sutton Bonington Campus on Wednesday November 15 marked WHO World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) and featured a host of information, activities and talks. The day aimed to encourage people to think about the issues around responsible antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance and was organised jointly by the Vet School, School of Biosciences and student societies including the Postgraduate Society (PGSoc), the One Health Society, Microbiology Society and NextGenScientists.
Alice Huxley said: “This project wasn’t just about identifying potential new antimicrobial producers, but I also wanted people to engage and actively learn more about this health issue which threatens all of us. People were actively involved in collecting swabs and I was able to feed back to them the outcome of their swab and the final results of the lab work. For the AMR day on campus, I wanted to bring it to a personal level by asking people to think about how antibiotics have positively affected them and therefore display the many reasons why they need to be protected.”
Professor Gary England, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: “I am delighted that our veterinary school has many initiatives to highlight the importance and impact of antibiotic resistance to human and animal health. This week we undertook a programme of activities under the umbrella of World Antibiotic Awareness Week but we want everyone to take action, not only this week, but every week.”
The highlights of the awareness day included a series of short lunchtime talks by academic staff involved in AMR research – with free pizza on offer to students and a fun AMR ‘Treasure Hunt’ organised by PGSoc.
Kieran Pitchers of PGSoc said: “We organised a treasure hunt leading all around Sutton Bonington Campus to engage both undergraduates and postgraduates in friendly competition, while also revealing the current nature of the AMR problem. It also benefited us through showing any common gaps in knowledge such as the belief that antimicrobials and antibiotics are one and the same. Our interest stems mainly from the research being done by myself and the society’s president into AMR but our committee also saw this as an excellent opportunity for our postgraduates to attain knowledge outside their respective fields.”
Rosanna Kirkwood, of the One Health Society, added: “As One Health Society, raising awareness of AMR and responsible antibiotic use among students is at the forefront of our agenda. We want professionals from veterinary, medical and environmental health sectors to work more closely together on this issue and hence we started this society to initiate better collaboration between these students.”
The latest event comes as part of a longer-term approach to raising awareness of the issues surrounding AMR and the threat that it poses, led by Dr Sabine Tötemeyer, Lecturer in Cellular Microbiology at the Vet School who has secured funding for AMR-related public engagement and outreach activities through a Hermes Fellowship and EPSRC Bridging the Gap grant.
These have included a visit to Sutton Bonington Primary School to work with key stage 1 pupils on collecting swabs of microbes and interactive games; an information stall and E.coli: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly game at the University’s Wonder event in June; and STEM workshops at secondary schools in Loughborough and Melton Mowbray.
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