The Science Museum present the Superbugs: The Fight For Our Lives exhibition which explores human’s response to the unprecedented global threat of antibiotic resistance. It is estimated that superbugs kill almost 700,000 people a year globally and by 2050 this could rise to 30 million. The exhibition examines antibiotic resistance at the microscopic, human and global scale with news of scientific discoveries from across the globe.
Although we share our world with bacteria, medical advances especially antibiotics mean millions of people each year are cured of previously untreatable bacterial diseases. But bacteria have fought back, evolving into superbugs resistant to antibiotics.
In the exhibition, visitors can examine twelve real bacteria colonies including nine deadly bacteria that the World Health Organisation classifies as a significant threat to human health. Grown by bioartist Anna Dumitriu, the bacteria include Escherichia coli, often first to colonise new-born babies’ stomachs, Staphylococcus aureus, one of the earliest superbugs identified and Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
The exhibition includes a digital interactive examining the microscopic world of bacteria and reveals how Bdellovibrio bacterivorous (a bacterium that eats other bacteria) and bacteriophages (a virus that infects bacteria) battle superbugs.
Although medicine has provided cures, it is also part of the problem with millions of antibiotics being taken unnecessarily. Bacterial infections in UK hospitals are becoming a real problem affecting up to 1.3 million people each year. Another area of concern is agriculture where a large amount of antibiotics are used each year finding their way into the food chain.
Surprisingly, it is thirty years since the last antibiotic was approved for human use and researchers are hunting for new antibiotics in unusual places. The exhibition shows a video that follows University of Illinois at Chicago researchers exploring the Icelandic fjords that may provide a new source of antibiotics. Also on display are South American leafcutter ants, which use fungi and bacteria to produce antibiotics that can kill superbugs like MRSA.
To encourage research, the UK Government and Nesta will award the £8 million Longitude Prize to the first team to develop a fast, affordable and accurate diagnostic test for bacterial infections.
This fascinating small free exhibition highlights one of the major global problems of the present and the future, as antibiotics become increasingly ineffective, the race to find a solution to the problem is gathering pace. The exhibition suggests that the widespread use of antibiotics globally means that global action will be needed to address the problem.
Video Review here
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information, visit the Science Museum website here
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