BLOG – Students learn from Hector and Chelsea and support us as we tackle drug-resistance

Peter Gibson ANTRUK announcements

A fundraising event at the University of Manchester marked the beginning of a partnership between Antibiotic Research UK and students. We hope we can galvanise an entire generation into actively do something about drug resistance. They’re already making great progress with climate change.

The word I believe is “serendipity”. The glorious discovery of something positive via chance or accident.

I guess as we loaded cakes onto plates and hoisted the Great British Tea Party bunting, my colleague Dr Alison Staples and I thought there might well be more than a modicum of interest in our fundraiser. We were hosting the event at the University of Manchester’s Stopford Building. After all, it is in the interest of tomorrow’s pharmacists, dentists, and doctors to know about bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.

What we didn’t quite expect was the deluge and the determined desire of young people. They have completely embraced this as a cause-celebre and give us so much hope for the future.

In the know? No.

20-year-old Chelsea Johnston is one student who has picked up the cudgels. The Biomedical Studies undergraduate said to me, “young people are supposed to know everything about everything these days!” And isn’t she right? From veganism to environmentalism, the world of social media pressures young people to keep abreast of all issues. Presumably, they must also hold a view on them.

But as Chelsea further explained to me, those studying high-level qualifications are still painfully unaware of drug resistance. It’s relatively unknown even though it will affect them now and in their futures.

Chelsea actually learned about the issue in an A ‘Level Biology class. Now, she wants all children to study it at primary school.

Frontrunners

With others, Chelsea is taking part in student charity work and fundraising for our charity in September. By her own admission, she is a non-runner, but will be pounding the streets. She’ll run for five kilometres to raise cash as part of the University of Manchester’s Purple Wave initiative on 6th September. This event was organised in response to the cancellation of The Great Manchester Run, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chelsea is also one of the formative members of the University of Manchester’s AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance) Society. This, we believe, is the first such university society in the UK. With the considerable input of our friend and Education Committee member Dr Roger Harrison, the University has developed an online learning tool named, “Antibiotics and You”. Bright, fun, and containing case studies from our Patient Support Service, this is an accessible course for all. You can access it here: http://amr-open-access.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/#/

student Hector about to go for a sponsored runHectoring on antibiotic resistance

Also taking to the track is Wimbledon runner and would-be Oxford attendee Hector Revill. The 17-year-old is a mine of information on drug resistance and is currently completing a half-marathon a day to raise money to find new treatments to replace our aging antibiotics. Again, Hector was unaware of the problem until fairly recently. But, it has persuaded him to pursue the subject vigorously once he begins his Chemistry degree.

Hector and Chelsea’s example has persuaded us to grow our involvement with Britain’s students. The challenge for them is to carry the message of drug resistance beyond the sciences and indeed the gates of their colleges and universities to their families and friends.

As Greta Thunberg has shown with her climate change campaigning, one person, full of passion and commitment, can make a difference. COVID-19 is the first real health crisis Hector and Chelsea have seen. It has impressed upon them a sense of urgency to save modern medicine and lives.

We can all learn from their example.

Young people wanting to get involved in student charity work, fundraising and volunteering, should contact claire.nethersole@antibioticresearch.org.uk