Spreading awareness about antibiotic resistance with SPOT

PhD student Alexander McFarland recently did some outreach with senior citizens. He talks about the experience here.

I recently had the opportunity to go to the Levy Center with the Science Policy Outreach Task Force (SPOT), a Northwestern University science advocacy group, to speak with senior citizens about bacterial antibiotic resistance. When I first signed up for this event, I was told to give a presentation about any important scientific problem that voting-aged citizens should be aware of. Naturally, I picked antibiotic resistance due to its increasing clinical prevalence and the need for policy-level actions to reverse the trend.

In my mind, the battle between scientists developing antibiotics and bacteria evolving resistances to them is similar to arms races in human history. Using this metaphor, I hoped to communicate that you can help stop the arms race by:

  • Listening to your doctor
  • Not taking antibiotics when you have a cold
  • Taking all antibiotics for their prescribed length

At the conclusion of my talk the audience had many more specific and detailed questions and comments that went beyond my simple presentation on the antibiotic arms race. We ended up having an informative discussion on topics such as antibiotic use in farm animals and the pros and cons of antibacterial vaccines. Overall, I had a great time and look forward to future outreach events with SPOT.