Schools conference on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance science
Press release issued: 20 December 2016
The University of Bristol is at the forefront of tackling the challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and engaging with the public to raise awareness of this global health issue, and what we can all do to help, is an important part of overcoming a problem that affects health, economic and social wellbeing.
BristolBridge, with support from the Bristol ChemLabS outreach team, organised a cross-faculty schools conference recently for post-16 biology and chemistry students held within the School of Chemistry to examine why AMR is an escalating global threat.
Around 160 students and 15 teachers from nine schools across the south west attended the lectures, hands-on displays and discovery-led demonstrations.
Dr Matthew Avison, from the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, opened the conference with an explanation on how taking antibiotics for granted and underestimating the adaptability of bacteria threatens the end of the antibiotic age. He also discussed what might be done to pull us back from the brink.
Postgraduate chemist Paul Walker from the Centre for Doctoral Training in Chemical Synthesis, School of Chemistry, followed this by examining how we can make new antibiotics.
And then, Professor Adrian Mulholland from the School of Chemistry, completed a series of talks with a look at how we can use computers to outsmart resistance.
Workshops and displays, presented by a team of postgraduates from across the University, looked at a number of different areas including how penicillin works, using maths to fight AMR, modelling bacteria using robot swarms and a game zone where the students could play a 'superbugs' game.
Professor Adrian Mulholland, who leads the BristolBridge project, said he was delighted by the engagement of both students and teachers.
He added: "It is essential that people recognise the enormity of the challenge that AMR poses to the world. It’s vital that people understand that they themselves do not become resistant to antibiotics - in fact, it’s the bacteria that becomes resistant. The infections are drug resistant."
One of the teachers commented: "Our girls had been looking forward to this for many weeks. There were super and engaging demonstrations and has really made the curriculum come to life. We, as ever, were made very welcome.
"The sessions were very well organised. Our girls especially liked meeting the PhD students and learning about research at the University of Bristol. The lectures were thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening- we have had our horizons broadened. All in all a superb afternoon."
Tim Harrison, Bristol ChemLabS Outreach Director was also delighted by the event. He said: "Young people need to see and hear about exciting research such as this to both broaden their studies and to inform their future careers choices."
The University of Bristol is currently the UK’s leading centre for AMR research based on both the value and the number of grants awarded to the university by the cross-Research Council initiative - the government’s AMR research initiative to encourage researchers from all disciplines to work collaboratively to tackle the emergence and spread of infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to treatment by current antibiotics.
BristolBridge, which is funded by EPSRC, one of the UK Research Councils, aims to find new ways of tackling AMR, in particular from bringing in ideas and techniques from engineering and physical sciences researchers, including those who may have never previously felt their work was relevant to AMR - www.bristol.ac.uk/bristolbridge/