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British Science Week Special - making future generations antibiotic aware

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), VMD News
Fergus Allerton from Willows vets visiting a local school as an Antibiotic Guardian Ambassador

British Science Week 2024 wrapped up on Sunday, and we wanted to end the week talking about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and highlight the Antibiotic Guardian Schools Ambassador programme; a fantastic initiative which brings healthcare professionals into the classroom to encourage children to become antibiotic aware.

Recently, the VMD worked alongside veterinary colleagues and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to expand the programme to include messaging on antibiotics used in animals, to make it a truly One Heath initiative.

What is antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microbes, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, change over time and no longer respond to antimicrobial medicines designed to kill them or stop their growth.  These resistant microbes can spread and may infect people or animals. This makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, this can also be referred to as antibiotic resistance.

While antibiotic resistance is a natural process that happens over time, its emergence and spread across the world is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in humans, animals, and plants.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest global health problems of our time and is the third leading underlying cause of death globally.

What is the Antibiotic Guardian Schools Ambassador programme

This programme was set up to educate young people on important public health topics; microbes, hygiene, infection prevention and antibiotics.

The scheme provides resources for any healthcare professionals who want to volunteer to deliver an education session to a school class, run an activity, or include a newsletter item on antimicrobial resistance at their local school.

Educating children is not only a brilliant way to ensure our future generations are engaged on important public health issues but children are also great disseminators of knowledge; taking important messages back to their families and friends.

Everyone has a role to play in tackling antimicrobial resistance by practicing good hand hygiene to reduce infection spread, only taking antibiotics when needed, and using them as prescribed.

Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope from UKHSA has been at the centre of AMR awareness in the UK for over ten years now and pioneered the Antibiotic Guardian campaign and the offshoot school’s ambassador programme. Diane provided  her thoughts on the evolution of the ambassador programme:

“The AG schools ambassador aims to support scientists, public health, healthcare and veterinary professionals in engaging and delivering teaching sessions (based on ) for young people through schools and community groups on important public health topics. We were delighted to collaborate with VMD and Fergus Allerton (Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service) in 2023 to expand the toolkit to include a dedicated One Health resource that all ambassadors can use. The campaign has been a huge success so far, with more than three quarters reporting that participating as an Antibiotic Guardian ambassador helps them both personally and professionally.”  

The glitter experiment is one way ambassadors have been able to bring to life the spread of bacteria

Making the programme One Health

Antimicrobial resistance is a One Health issue that requires a coordinated approach across humans, animals, and the environment.

Just as antibiotics are used in people, they are also needed to fight infections in animals. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) recently reported that 90% of vets are concerned about losing the ability to treat infections in animals as a result of AMR, but only 35% of vets felt that clients were aware of AMR. In this BVA article they issued some top tips to help pet owners be antibiotic aware and have an active role in responsible antibiotic use.

Fergus Allerton from Willows spearheaded veterinary involvement in the AG Schools Ambassador programme. He created a suite of assets with support from VMD’s AMR team for volunteer ambassadors to use in schools, including ideas such as a using glitter to show how microbes can spread through hands and teaching children about the importance of hand hygiene.

We asked Fergus about his experience of going to schools and why the AG Ambassador programme is such an important scheme:

One of the key steps in the battle against AMR is raising public awareness. What better place to start than by engaging with future generations who can help ensure a One Health approach to antimicrobial stewardship is pursued. The School ambassador program is fun and helps spread this vital message. I would encourage vets and vet nurses to get involved - #bestaudienceever!”

You can get involved

Help us spread the message about antimicrobial resistance and how we all have a role to ensure antibiotics are used responsibly, in people and animals. If you are a vet or vet nurse and would like to be a volunteer for our pilot AMR ambassador programme, please register on the Antibiotic Guardian website.


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