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Students at the University of Edinburgh discuss antimicrobial resistance during the Festival of Creative Learning

The BEYOND RESISTANCE network organised two very successful workshops discussing antimicrobial resistance during the University of Edinburgh’s Festival of Creative Learning in February 2019.

The events were entitled Our Tiny Non-Humans:  Meet the microbes that shape our world.  They were held at the ASCUS Art & Science labs in Summerhall, and brought together participants from a (huge) range of different backgrounds including gastronomy, biomedical sciences, art, literature and beyond.

We also encouraged curious members of the general public to attend as one of the few Festival of Creative Learning events open to the entire Edinburgh community, resulting in a lively and diverse crowd.

Through disucssion and hands-on activities attendees learned about why some bacteria are becoming difficult to treat with antibiotics, why antimicrobial resistance remains a major global challenge in medical research and how the problem relates to our world today.

Range of different activities

Through disucssion and hands-on activities attendees learned about why some bacteria are becoming difficult to treat with antibiotics, why antimicrobial resistance remains a major global challenge in medical research and how the problem relates to our world today.

The workshop was led by medical anthropologist Iona Walker of the BEYOND RESISTANCE Network, architect Nikoletta Karastathi and clinician and researcher Dr Zafer Tandogdu from Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital.

Kicking off with a discussion about the mechanisms of infection and antimicrobial resistance, participants then prepared agar plates to grow some environmental samples. For the creative aspect of the workshop, Nikoletta and Iona introduced the group to bioart, featuring Sarah Craske, Rebecca Harris and Anna Dimitru.

Spreading bacteria on petrie dishes
Learning about bacterial tiny non-humans through hands-on activities.

Next, participants created their own pieces of textile bioart with pigmented bacteria which will be stitched together after the festival to creative a large collaborative artwork to be displayed later in the year.

Finally, the group tested antimicrobial agents such as garlic, bleach, honey, soap, ginger and laundry detergent on bioluminescent bacteria, to test resistance in real time.

We wanted to create a workshop where people could encounter the microbial world outside of the usual “microbes are germs” paradigm. Together, we used creative techniques to explore human-microbe relationships. In doing so, participants learnt about the microbiome, the role of microbes in the environment and most importantly, how and why antibiotic resistance is such an important issue. We are excited to see the final results of the environmental samples and of course the bioart quilt - stay tuned!

Iona WalkerCoordinator of the BEYOND RESISTANCE Network

Positive feedback

Feedback from the workshops was very positive.  Participants said:

I learnt that much of my knowledge about antibiotics and bacteria was not correct - now I know the real story!

 

I didn’t know microbes could be so colourful in real life

"Painting" with bacteria
"Painting" with bacteria and exploring challenges posed by bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.
Bacteria spread on petrie dishes
Through engaging, creative activity, workshop participants grappled with the problem of antimicrobial resistance and need for integrated social, ecomonic and scientific solutions.

About BEYOND RESISTANCE

BEYOND RESISTANCE is an interdisciplinary network spanning the arts, sciences and social sciences to investigate, explore and find solutions to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

It is collaboration between the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology, the creative arts and social sciences network Atelier, and Edinburgh Infectious Diseases, with the aim of bringing together people who are asking the same questions in different ways.

By sharing knowledge, building relationships and working collaboratively, the Network hopes to inspire creative solutions to AMR.

Related Links

ASCUS Art & Science

Atelier - The Creative Art and Social Sciences Network

Beyond Resistance

Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology