Creative musical teaches about antimicrobial resistance


Imagine bringing the topic of antimicrobial resistance to life, engaging students in learning about biology, history and science through musical theatre.

A play makes its U.S. premiere this week in Washington, DC, at the Atlas Center for Performing Arts in conjunction with IDWeek2022, the major annual gathering of infectious disease societies. It moves to the Science Gallery of Pullman Yards in Atlanta, headquarters of the CDC, for performances from November 1 to 6.

The concept was dreamed up by Dr Meghan Perry, a Scottish infectious disease doctor and researcher. She then worked with composer Robin Hiley, author Thomas Henderson and the Charades Theater Company to produce the unlikely musical. It was a sold-out success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and was later performed by students from the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Science Museum in London. CarriAyne Jones Parr, PhD, UK Science and Innovation Network Lead, South East USA, explained that there is also a “partnership with the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, which has granted them a funding and helped them develop the educational resources”. They also helped shape the program so that it “could be scientifically evaluated for its ability to influence knowledge transfer”.


There are many teacher resources and lesson plans, all available for free! These are focused on a typical 5e-grade curriculum and include biology – cells and micro-organisms, as well as the history of World War I and World War II. They show what life was like before there were antibiotics that could cure infections. Today, the focus is a little more on infection prevention and control measures as well as effective medications and treatments to prevent/fight infections).

In addition to lesson plans, the free units include step-by-step videos so students can learn the music and choreography to stage the musical for their schools or communities.

Using the story of Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin in 1928, the play takes us from the pre-antibiotic era and devastating deaths from infection during World War I to the present day. Jones Parr said: “It’s not even been 100 years, and we’ve built this modern medical system, basically on antibiotics, and now we’re in danger of losing them.”


Professor Dame Sally Davies is the UK’s Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and England’s former Chief Medical Officer (CMO). She has long been immersed in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. His hope of bringing the musical to the United States is “to get the public involved in the issue because 1.2 million people die of AMR worldwide every year.”

A critical problem is that pharmaceutical (drug) companies have largely retreated from antibiotic development because it is risky and not profitable enough in their view. Dame Sally promotes a subscription model for drug development.

“Britain has shown that it is possible to use a subscription method to drive innovation from new drugs. We have tested two new drugs and have reached satisfactory levels of payment,” he said. she said. Both the government and drug companies have agreed to the plan. The initial drugs are cefiderocol and ceftazidime-avibactam, each used only for patients with severe antibiotic resistance and limited treatment options.


New antibiotics often have restricted uses to prevent further resistance from emerging quickly and rendering them useless. Due to these restrictions, sales are limited. Under the subscription plan, the company is assured of a fixed annual fee, regardless of the amount used. The fee is based on the National Health Service’s estimate of the value of drugs using a measure called quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). This includes the extent to which a drug or treatment “prolongs and/or improves patients’ lives”. In this case, Dame Sally noted that they also looked at the benefit of protecting the patient’s family from catching the drug-resistant organism.

It is no small irony that as the UK expands its efforts to promote more limited and rational use of antibiotics (i.e. responsible antibiotic management), Therese Coffey, the Secretary British Health, said this week she had given leftover antibiotics to a friend. Coffey also proposes allowing pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics. Given the current shortage of medical practitioners in the UK and long waiting times for treatment, his reckless feeling is understandable. The problem is that pharmacists are not trained diagnosticians and there would be more overuse of antibiotics leading to increased resistance.

Asked about this proposal, Dame Sally noted that pharmacists could be trained to diagnose and treat specific, limited conditions, such as strep throat, by following algorithms. She also suggested trials to see if it worked before adopting changes more widely.


There is no simple solution. We are fighting antimicrobial resistance on many fronts, from the massive overuse of antibiotics in commercial meat production to over-the-counter sales in some countries and pressure for profits from pharmaceutical companies. Education about antimicrobial resistance is absolutely necessary at all levels. This innovative approach to teaching science and history through a musical might be just what the doctor ordered.


Comments are closed.