Antibiotics unearthed: antibiotic discovery and citizen science

Drury, Ethan (2020) Antibiotics unearthed: antibiotic discovery and citizen science. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Resistance to antibiotics is a natural phenomenon in bacteria; an unavoidable result of their evolutionary capabilities. This, coupled with their ability to transfer resistance genes from resistant to sensitive bacteria, fuels a constant arms race between antibiotic use and resistance. Currently, this race is being tipped in the bacteria’s favour through human misuse of antibiotics.

I present a citizen science PhD project, part funded by the Microbiology Society, that melds a search for novel antibiotics with an analysis of different approaches used to engage members of the public in scientific discourse: Antibiotics Unearthed. I adapted and optimised a method for collecting soil samples in schools and colleges for use at public events.

This resulted in the long-term storage of 165 bacterial isolates exhibiting antagonistic activity against indicator bacterial strains such as Bacillus subtilis, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium DT104 and Staphylococcus epidermidis as well as medically relevant pathogens including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Candida albicans. From these, fifteen isolates with distinct morphological and antagonistic profiles were selected to be sent for whole genome sequencing. Phylogenetic tree and antiSMASH software allowed the identification of underexploited bacterial species and their biosynthetic gene clusters coding for antibiotic and secondary metabolite production.

Facebook metrics suggest that user engagement with this project was not affected by the types of content we released. However, the number of people who see any given content is driven by external events such as antibiotic awareness week.

Through the application of a coding schedule developed from key literature on the public discourse of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, I identified key themes through interview data with participants. These key themes, when applied to long-term portfolios have been used to evidence discursive transformations of portfolio holders. This study has produced outcomes and impacts in the scientific, participant and socio-ecological and economic dimension.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Norwich Medical School
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2021 10:57
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 10:57

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