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Eastern Participates in Antibiotic Resistance Awareness Week

Published on November 23, 2015

Eastern Participates in Antibiotic Resistance Awareness Week

Biology and health sciences students at Eastern Connecticut State University participated in the first-ever World Antibiotic Awareness Week from Nov. 16–22. The campaign aims to increase awareness of antibiotic resistance, an issue with growing global health implications. Throughout the week, students hosted informational tables around campus and posed questions of the day to those passing by.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotics are routinely misused, resulting in harmful bacteria developing resistances against them, which causes valuable antibiotic medicines to become ineffective. In the agricultural industry, for example, antibiotics are overused to prevent sickness among crops and livestock — antibiotics do not prevent sickness. Humans then consume those antibiotic-filled foods, which then compromises their ability to be helped by antibiotics.

Professor Barbara Murdoch with Biochemistry Major Kailey Pisko ’17 and Biology Major Tim Rausch tabling in the Science Building for World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Antibiotics are also mis-prescribed to patients who do not have bacterial infections — some sicknesses are caused by viruses, for instance, which are untreatable by antibiotics. Furthermore, individuals misuse antibiotics when they prematurely stop taking them when they start to feel better, rather than completing the prescription. In this case, those bacteria that were not killed off from the antibiotics strengthen and reproduce.

“Raising awareness of antibiotic resistance involves a three-pronged approach,” said Biology Professor Barbara Murdoch, the faculty member who brought World Antibiotic Awareness Week to Eastern.

“We want to empower individuals to understand how we got here and what they can do,” said Murdoch. She went on to say that people “need to take charge of their health” by eating right and washing hands, as well as keeping up with their vaccinations (to prevent the need to use antibiotics in the first place). In the event that they do get sick, individuals should find out if antibiotics are an appropriate treatment (i.e. the infection is indeed bacterial) and continue their prescription to the end.

The two other prongs include ensuring that healthcare providers correctly prescribe antibiotics; and having policymakers legislate against the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, as well as create incentives for pharmaceuticals to develop new antibiotics.

Speaking to the value of these medicines, Murdoch added, “We have a limited number of antibiotics.” The development of antibiotics takes time and costs millions of dollars, so their effectiveness needs to be preserved by using them only when necessary.

“Eastern got involved with this event through my work with a project called The Small World Initiative (SWI),” said Murdoch. “The SWI seeks to bring awareness to the global challenge of antibiotic resistance, through student research, antibiotic discovery through crowdsourcing, and events like World Antibiotic Awareness Week.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Categories: Health Sciences, Biology