UWA students put research to work for World Antibiotic Awareness Week

LIVINGSTON — The University of West Alabama’s Small World Initiative members are joining forces with the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization for the first-ever World Antibiotic Awareness Week on Nov. 16-22.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.

UWA Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Mustafa Morsy said, “There are many ways to help reduce antibiotic use. Some methods include using antibiotics only when prescribed by a certified health professional, taking the full prescription, never using leftover antibiotics, and finally, never sharing antibiotics with others.

UWA has been a part of the Small World Initiative for three years. The organization aims to discover novel antibiotic from soil bacteria that could help with the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Morsy was one of the few nationwide educators who was invited to Yale University to develop an antibiotic discovery based course. This course crowd sourced undergraduates’ efforts to discover a novel antibiotic that may help with the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Students enrolled in this course presented their research findings at UWA’s Undergraduate Research Symposium and at the National American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators in Austin, Texas in July 2015.

These students were presented several awards for the high quality of their research and its potential impact.

“We are glad to be a part of the prestigious, world-wide organization, Small World Initiative. We are also pleased that the organization is continuously active on UWA’s campus, as two honors biology student are working on their thesis in antibiotic discovery. These students will be presenting at the Small World Initiative annual symposium, chaired by myself, in June 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts,” Morsy said.

Riley King and Mara Deluca, both UWA students majoring in biology pre-medical track, have started a campaign to increase community awareness of the dangers in overusing antibiotic, leading to the development of resistance bacteria. They have posted informational flyers on a simple way to reduce the use of antibiotics.

UWA student Riley King of Demopolis, Ala., said, “My involvement in the Small World Initiative began in the spring of 2015 by being enrolled in Molecular and Microbial Biology here at UWA. Through this class, I became aware of the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria and how it is effecting the medical field.”

King continued, “Conducting research for the Small World Initiative was such a memorable experience that I have decided to continue searching for novel antibiotics as a part of my Honors College thesis project. With this project, I hope to continue researching and looking for novel antibiotics to help the growing of bacteria becoming resistance to antibiotics.”

Mara Deluca of Roanoke, Va., explained that the Small World Initiative opened her eyes to the different careers available within the biology field. “The Small World Initiative gave me the opportunity to learn how research actually works. Also, it gave me the opportunity to work with students with similar interests in science as me,” Deluca said.

Antibiotic resistant bacterial causes more than 50,000 deaths each year in the US and Europe. If this problem is left unsolved, the death rate will increase to an estimated 500,000 death by 2050. Therefore, reducing the use of antibiotic is important to lessen the development of resistant bacteria. In addition, discovery of novel antibiotic could be an important method by finding a novel effective antibiotic against the resistant bacteria.

UWA College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean Dr. John McCall said, “The Small World Initiative is an important part of our efforts to have students see science as a process of discovery rather than a recitation of facts.”

“We are delighted that Small World Initiative is joining the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization in highlighting the growing dangers of antibiotic resistance. This will allow our students a glimpse into the global significance of the type of work they are doing,” McCall continued.

For more information on Antibiotic Awareness Week, contact Dr. Mustafa Morsy at (205) 652-5541 or mmorsy@uwa.edu.