Teaching The Dangers Of Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing

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Children are to be taught in schools about prudent antibiotic use and the importance of good hygiene as part of a new campaign to control the spread of antibiotic resistant infections.

Children are to be taught in schools about prudent antibiotic use and the importance of good hygiene as part of a new campaign to control the spread of antibiotic resistant infections.

"e-Bug", a European Commission (DG-SANCO) sponsored project, developed by the Health Protection Agency and European partners, is an educational resource that will be available for schools in Europe, including the UK, to use from next year (2009/2010).

There is a broad consensus that a major driver of antibiotic resistance is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics which enriches the population of resistant bugs.

The aim of e-Bug is to teach children, from an early age, the benefits of antibiotics, alongside information on their prudent use, how inappropriate use can have an adverse effect on an individual's 'good bugs' and the impact of antibiotic resistance in the community.

e-Bug, which includes a website (www.e-bug.eu), has been developed for primary school (9-11yrs) and secondary school (12-15yrs) children. Both age groups will examine similar themes, although the aim is to enable senior pupils to explore issues in much greater depth. Examples of the subjects covered within e-Bug include:

* An introduction to the different types of micro-organisms and their shapes and sizes (bacteria, virus and fungi).
* The good microbes that can be beneficial including yeast and yoghurt-producing bacteria.
* Illnesses that can result from bad microbes
* The importance of antibiotics and other medicines to treat illness
* How good hand hygiene can prevent microbes spreading from one person to another
* Respiratory hygiene and the microbes that can be spread via coughs and sneezes

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The Health Protection Agency's Dr Cliodna McNulty, who led on the development of e-Bug, said

"Antibiotic resistance is a problem for all of us and the public has an important role to play in controlling its emergence and spread.

"Public campaigns so far have been aimed at adults who are gatekeepers to antibiotic use in our children but we need to educate our future generation of adults and parents about the benefits of antibiotics and the problems that can arise through their misuse.

"Children are our future generation of antibiotic users and they will also take these important messages home to their parents."

Trials of e-Bug across England, France and the Czech Republic (around 2,000 children from England alone) have already been evaluated, with positive feedback from users and a significant increase in knowledge reported across all activity areas.

12,000 e-Bug packs will be available for schools - free upon request - from summer 2009, with all resources also available on the website.

Dr McNulty said: "Microbes and microbial resistance are covered by England's junior and secondary school curriculum so we hope e-Bug will prove to be not just a useful resource enabling schools to fulfil their teaching requirements, but also something that can add real value to children's lives both now and in the long term.

"We know that school hygiene campaigns reduce the rates of infection in school children, staff and their families. Any reduction in illness, through the education of children about good hand and respiratory hygiene, which in turn may reduce antibiotic use, should be encouraged."

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