Families and members of the public can drop in to meet researchers at a free two-day pop-up exhibition aimed at raising awareness of the health threat of antimicrobial resistance.

This fun, hands-on event aims to engage children and their parents/carers with world-leading science at the University of Exeter, through a special event featuring crafts, microscopes and the opportunity to meet scientists in Exeter city centre. The pop-up shop will be held on the 18th and 19th February 2023, at MakeTank on Paris Street, Exeter and will be open from 10am to 4pm on each day. This event follows on from the successful Superbugs event in Cardiff, where over 6,500 people visited the shop over a two-week period.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi evolve and develop resistance to medications that are used to cure infections they cause. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared antimicrobial resistance as one of the top 10 global public health threat facing humanity.

Bacterial and fungal pathogens pose a major threat to human health. Fungi are, especially a threat to those people with compromised immunity, such as people with cancer, and can be deadly. The prevalence of AMR in both bacteria and fungi is reducing the number of medicines available to patients fighting off infections, and reduces a successful outcome. There are currently only four classes of antifungal drugs available, thus making antifungal resistance a huge concern.

Professor Adilia Warris, Co-Director of the Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Mycology (MRC CMM) at the University of Exeter and one of the leading academics working on AMR in fungi said: “At the Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Mycology (MRC CMM) we are actively contributing to tackle the problem of AMR in fungi. Research teams here are for example focusing on finding new antifungal targets to develop new drugs or vaccines, or how we can find ways to mitigate the development of antifungal resistance.

“The development of antifungal resistance is of major concern and seriously restrict the effective treatment of infections caused by resistant fungi. We have to invest in research to discover new antifungal therapies as well as making sure that the antifungals we have are used wisely. As antifungal resistance is often missed out in discussions about AMR, it is of vital importance to make people aware of the problem we are facing.”

Professor William Gaze, Professor of Microbiology at The European Centre for Environment and Human Health, part of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “If microbial pathogens continue to develop antimicrobial drug resistance we may return to a situation where even common infections are difficult or impossible to treat. This process, known as antimicrobial resistance, is driven by overuse of antibiotics and antifungals in human medicine, but also in farm animal and crop production.

“We need to reduce the amounts of antimicrobials used in all sectors and to reduce the build-up of these drugs in the natural environment through human and animal waste.”

Researchers from across the University of Exeter and the MRC CMM will be engaging the community of Exeter with an array of activities, including discussions around antimicrobial resistance and tasks such as ‘say hello to microbes’ and ‘growing your own microbe’ amongst others. In these activities, visitors will be invited to swab themselves and test to see the microbes living on their body.