Centre for Inflammation Research

World Pneumonia Day

November 2018: Teaching the public about infections, the immune system and antibiotics through fun hands-on activities.

World Pneumonia Day (12th November) is an international annual celebration to honour the fight against respiratory infections and to raise awareness among the public about the magnitude of the problem and the progress science and healthcare make in battling this major problem.

This year, CIR's Prof Debby Bogaert organised a special symposium held at the Queens Medical Research Institute for researchers to share knowledge about the disease. Alongside this, we organised a public engagement event in which several hands-on activities were on offer to the general public where they could learn more about the body's bacteria in health and disease and how our immune cells work.

Collage of images showing the World Pneumonia Day public engagement activities
Various activities were run for the public and symposium attendees to interact with.

The audience was targeted by direct invitation using existing University links and processes, which are routinely used to generate this audience for publicly-accessible inaugural lectures. This process involved the Edinburgh University Widening Participation team, who reaches the public via early press releases and have an active engagement with most of the high schools in the greater region of Edinburgh regarding inaugural lectures and PE activities. 

Advertising was also sent to Scottish High School Biology teachers using the Synapse professional network. The event was also advertised via social media (including the CIR twitter account and Edinburgh Infectious Diseases twitter account) and Edinburgh Local events website. We also contacted the initiators of World pneumonia day (John Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, who advertise activities throughout the world on 12th November 2018 via their webpage and social media.

We also put up posters in central spaces, staff facilities (to target medical and paramedical professionals) and Clinical trial Facilities (targeting paramedical professionals and (parents of) volunteers of studies) of the Royal Infirmary Hospital, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and the Western General Hospital.

The public engagement activities were led by young medical trainees, PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and senior research fellows. These included activities to understand the diversity of our microbiome, the many functions of our immune system and to learn more about respiratory infections.

British Society for Immunology logo

Thanks to a grant from the British Society for Immunology, we were able to run a few activities, plus treat attendees to a special show. 

The activities included:

1) Microbiome diversity, in which participants were required to guess the number of candies in a jar

2) Supercytes, which allows the general public to get acquainted with the different immune cells and their different functions through a card game

3) Diagnose Kev!, a special game where participants had the chance to play doctor and hunt bacteria in the lungs

4) Guess what?, where several different objects were swabbed on agar plates and incubated to allow bacteria to grow, and participants were then required to guess what object corresponded to which agar plate

5) Zoom in and Focus, where different slides were prepared for observation under the microscope. This included a gram stain to identify gram positive and gram negative bacteria, blood smears to identify different white blood cells, and neutrophils phagocytosing bacteria. Participants had the opportunity to observe bacteria and immune cells under a microscope and were provided information on each immune cells and description of the different bacteria and gram stains

A group of performers inspecting Petri dishes at the front of an auditorium
A snippet of 'The mould that changed the world'.

6) Keep calm and wash your hands, a detectable UV light spray was sprayed on the participants hands and they were required to “pretend” wash their hands and introduce their hands under a UV torch and visualise the dark spots on their hands which corresponded to areas that where “unwashed”. In addition to the several activities, informative leaflets and a movie was playing on the background on the global burden of Pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

People were impressed at how simple, yet effective, these activities were.

The show, performed at the end of the Symposium, was a special truncated version of the award-winning Edinburgh Fringe produciton "The Mould That Changed the World", that takes you on a journey through the discovery of antibiotics. It was brilliantly performed and highly entertaining!

This was followed by the inaugural lecture of Prof Debby Bogaert, titled: "Born in a microbial cloud: Gatekeepers of a healthy life".

We look forward to running a similar event next year!

– Article written by Dr Filipa Henderson Sousa, Postdoctoral Researcher.



World Pneumonia Day – World Health Organisation (external link)

British Society for Immunology (external link)


Prof Debby Bogaert - Research Profile