The Longitude Prize is the UK’s biggest science prize, and we hope it will revolutionise global health by significantly reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics. The winning diagnostic test should safeguard existing and new antibiotics for future generations, and for those who currently aren’t able to access them. The Prize, with a £10 million fund, follows a long tradition of competitions that encourage knowledge from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds to find new solutions to the biggest global problems we face.
Current 11 to 16 year olds will be in their mid-40s and 50s in 2050, when the UK Prime Minister-commissioned AMR Review led by Lord Jim O’Neill is predicting we could be seeing 10 million deaths a year globally from this problem.
Raising public awareness and understanding is… a crucial pillar of our recommendations for tackling antimicrobial resistance. – Review on AMR
Recognising the urgent need to raise awareness and understanding about antibiotic resistance, today we’re launching Superbugs, Nesta’s first ever mobile game. It is aimed at 11 to 16 year olds and the goal is for players to survive as long as they can against superbugs, by wisely utilising existing and new antibiotics.
We need antibiotics when we have infections, when we undergo surgery, or when our immune system is supressed by treatment, such as for cancer. If we don’t address the problem of rising resistance, which can be worsened by misuse or overuse of them, then our current young people will get the brunt of our misuse in the future, and may not be able to rely on antibiotics.
Developed by Preloaded, who have a strong track record in making games with a purpose, Superbugs places players on a petri dish and challenges them to use available antibiotics on their bugs. The player soon discovers that antibiotics stop working after a while, and that resistant bacteria pass their resistance to other superbugs around them. It’s now available to download, for free, on both iOS and Android platforms.
It is important for us to engage with this audience so they can be more aware of the problem. This fun and easy-to-play game also contains science facts, to help players gain a broader understanding of the issue and what they can personally do to tackle it. Games are proven to be an effective way of engaging young audiences with science, as both learners and even contributors to research. A 2008 study found that 97% of teens ages 12-17 play computer, web, portable, or console games and 48% of them use a mobile phone or handheld device to play games.
If the Longitude Prize discovers the winning diagnostic it will rely on all of us –patients, consumer and health workers – to change current behaviours to be able to reduce inappropriate use. Understanding the problem of resistance to antibiotics and how we can reduce it – by preventing bacterial infections, by not sharing antibiotics, buying them over the counter, or pressurising GPs to provide them – is a crucial part of tackling this. Public engagement activity like Superbugs is therefore an important element of the work of the Prize, and perhaps this work may even encourage more young people to think about how they could work with others to win the Prize.
We hope Superbugs will be downloaded and played by teens, and by anyone wanting to have some fun while learning about this important and urgent issue.