Education and Outreach:
We have indulged in a comprehensive bunch of people with an aim to increase awareness about antibiotic resistance.
Target: school students, farmers, teachers, common people
To assess the general perception of antibiotic resistance (ABR), a survey was floated on various social media platforms. An overwhelming portion of the responses we received was from students, followed by individuals working in the healthcare sector. 92.7% of the 522 participants in the survey think ABR is indeed a rising issue/concern in India. This indicates that a majority of the respondents are aware of the detrimental effects of prolonged antibiotic usage in general, if not from a biological standpoint. An overwhelming 98.9% of respondents agree with taking measures to curb antibiotic resistance at its source. This indicates a common need to apply a proactive approach to accomplish the same.
Based on our goal and purpose, we have circulated a newsletter entailing antibiotic resistance. To attract our targeted group of people, we have drafted the newsletter in Tamil (regional language) as well so that it would serve our purpose of reaching out to a broader range of people and spreading awareness.
Social media engagement:
The primary social media platforms used by our team are Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. We have posted several beneficial contents on our social media handles such as pictures, stories, reels, etc which include an introduction to synthetic biology, ethics and concerns of synbio, antibiotic resistance, development of AMR, etc. Posting relevant and convenient content and conducting Instagram quizzes have helped us in strategically conveying to our potential people. By analyzing our Instagram insights, we are able to reach out to a substantial extent of audience which also includes international audiences. Additionally, we have made playlists of our collaborations which are circulated over YouTube in order to make them accessible to a broad range of people.Youtube link
Educational sessions on Antibiotic resistance
We had a chance to communicate and exchange about Synthetic Biology, the iGEM competition and our topic with high school students across our country. We interacted with the 10th-standard students of The Valley School, Bangalore and the 9th-standard students of William Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Vellore. We had prepared a presentation entailing about the antibiotic mechanism, antibiotic resistance and the wise usage of antibiotics. To increase their engagement, we showed them animated infographics on antibiotic pollution and how we plan to address the issue.
This was an intensive opportunity for them to garner some biological knowledge about genes, enzymes, and plasmids and also to learn about the alarming global issue of antibiotic resistance. Their enthusiastic involvement and reactions were extremely motivating. We succeeded in our mission to raise awareness and knowledge about synthetic biology and antibiotic resistance in a fun and educational setting.canva link
Education session on laboratory safety and thin layer chromatography experiment:
We have intervened in a group of middle and high school students to make them aware and realize a remarkably important aspect of science, “Importance of Lab Safety.” We went to a school in Vellore named William Matriculation High School and interacted with approximately 20 to 25 students. We believe lab safety and making the lab rules and procedures clear is paramount in any science classroom. We did a presentation of the same followed by a bilateral discussion which according to the students was truly insightful. We succeeded in our effort of giving them a glimpse of how to conduct themselves as laboratory professionals and learn to think first before they dive into potentially dangerous experiments and laboratory tests.
Additionally, to make it a more fun and experimental environment, we engaged the students by performing Thin Layer Chromatography prior to which we gave them an introduction to the basics of chromatography, its types, and its importance. We had our own set-up of beakers, capillaries, plates, solvents, etc. The students were taught to interpret the results. Towards the end, we enlightened the students about iGEM, synthetic biology, our problem statement and our solution for the same.
Double-edged sword: “Dual use problem with synthetic biology”. 33 people attended the seminar wherein we talked about the different aspects of ethical facets in synthetic biology, for example, different types of scientific isolationism, scientific libertarianism, and the approaches that scientists usually employ when they face the dual-use problem. The motive behind organizing the seminar was because we believe in transparency in synthetic biology and, very presumably, each of the potential harms and the potential advantages of synthetic biology is exaggerated in most discussions of the technology. However, synthetic biology presents some intriguing and a few very dreadful possibilities that require very careful study and observation. This process needs transparency concerning the research and interdisciplinary among those engaged to evaluate it; it also needs to start early in the research and continue after any applications, and it needs to be versatile enough to take into account changes in technology.
We wanted to integrate art with science as we realized a lot of parallelism between both of them. We wanted to look into people’s thinking processes and mindsets about their take on antibiotic resistance (ABR) and its facets. As a result, we organized an event consisting of approximately 50 people where we asked them to illustrate their first image or thought that came into their mind on a piece of paper when they heard about ABR. Our target bunch of people were school and college students. We succeeded in getting a sizable number of responses and all of them depict an increased awareness about ABR on several levels.
Fig- Caricatures made by VIT students.
As a part of the human practices, we have intervened in a group of farmers at the Government Veterinary Hospital, Vellore.
Why did we approach the farmers?
We had an interactive session with the farmers to get some first-hand information about the variety of animals they owned and the traditional practices they followed for animal husbandry.
What information did we gain?
Based on the interactions, we got to know that instead of boosting animal feed with medications and growth supplements, the farmers prefered natural fortifiers like millets, eggs, milk, horse gram, guava leaves and grain-based food items. We also confirmed that the animals were sicker in monsoons and winters than in the summers. Instead of routine visits to veterinary doctors, they get the animals checked only when they fall sick. Based on the survey, we got to know about their lack of knowledge and awareness about antibiotics.
Educational workshops for farmers:
We travelled to Periyaramanathapuram, a village in Tamil Nadu, India, to speak with the farmers there in order to assess their level of awareness. The main purpose of the interaction was to analyze the farmers’ knowledge of antibiotics and their usage. While interacting, we inquired about the medicines they have been providing to their cattle and poultry. For easy communication, we also prepared a presentation in the chart in the local language. We made an effort to educate the farmers on the use of antibiotics, and chemical fertilizers, and how it enters the food chain as they pass through from agricultural fields through the manure utilized in what we eat and the ill effects it has on crop yield and human health.
The importance of proper cleanliness and sanitation of both the environment and the animals was emphasized. We also inquired about the usage of tetracycline and discussed our project idea. Their helpful responses indeed helped us to solidify our proposal. From our encounters, we deduced that they have been managing their cattle according to highly hygienic conventional techniques.