Carla Brown, who completed her PHD as a student at the University of Glasgow, has launched Bacteria Combat – a digital card battle top game aimed at players aged between eight and 13.
In the app, which she created with Dundee game developers Future Fossil Studios, players are given cards representing a wide range of “friendly” and ‘dangerous’ bacteria. They face off against a computer-controlled player, The Bacteria Bot, by pitting their bacteria’s strength, regeneration, speed and resistance scores against each other.
Behind the fun, however, is a serious message. Widespread misuse and overuse of antibiotic medications in human and animals over decades has led to the problem of antibiotic resistance, where microbes become less affected by medications which have proved successful in improving health. This has led to a dwindling supply of effective antimicrobial therapies.
Disruption of beneficial gut bacteria via increased antibiotic exposure in childhood is also linked to the development of asthma, obesity, autism and inflammatory bowel disease.
Ms Brown said: “To ensure new classes of antibiotics are used effectively we must also improve public awareness on the specific role of antibiotics against bacteria and also the emerging problem of resistance.
“If abused or misused, this type of antibiotic can promote antibiotic resistance which is severely undermining the effectiveness of these drugs today. These health topics are ineffectively communicated to the public and often inaccurately described by the media.
“I value the use of alternative, sustainable and motivational teaching resources which are accessible to all classrooms. I believe that the ‘gamification’ of science can make difficult topics much easier to grasp.”
The microbiologist hopes her app will be used widely in schools.
“I wanted to develop a fun but educational game which would demonstrate the importance of our ‘friendly bugs’ while highlighting the problem of antibiotic resistance,” she said.
“Another potential solution to the problem of resistance is better education of the public on the specific role of antibiotics, ie not to be used for the flu and colds, I believe that by educating school pupils on this topic, they will form attitudes that will be maintained throughout life.”
Distribution of the card game and development of the app were funded by University of Glasgow, the Society for Applied Microbiology, e-Bug, Microbiology Society, the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society.