It’s suppertime. And you’re going to do the right thing: skip that fast food joint too-conveniently located around the corner and prepare that healthy homemade pizza everyone loves. As you’re congratulating yourself on your choice in walks your 10-year old who politely asks if you have washed your hands. Not quite willing to fess up that you haven’t you try an artful dodge: Um, why do you ask, young lady? To which you get something like:
“Each microbe has special markers or antigens on their surface which is special to just that microbe. Specific white blood cells see these microbes and their antigens. And make specific antibodies to attach to that particular antigen. These antibodies lock onto the microbe with the corresponding antigen. The antibodies then mark the harmful microbe for destruction. And stay in the bloodstream to fight that antigen should it ever return.”
No, your 10-year-old probably wouldn’t put it that way. However, those are the exact words used in the computer animation “Counter Attack,” which is 1 of 14 computer games designed for British school children, ages 7 – 11. That’s not a typo: this stuff is for kids. It’s part of the new British health authority guidelines released this week aimed at teaching students, age 7 though university, about drug-resistant bugs. In addition to games, the e-Bug website has home science experiments, quizzes, a disease fact file (explaining MRSA, for example), and a Fact of the Week: “Scientists believe that there are more bacteria in your body than the actual number of cells in your body.”
We saw this coming. Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron warned the public that “We are in danger of going back to the Dark Ages of medicine to see infections that were treatable not be treatable and you would see many thousands of people potentially die from these infections.”
Following that announcement his government released a report at Christmastime predicting drug resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide – more than currently die from cancer – by 2050 unless action is taken. And so the health guidelines released Tuesday constitute, in part, that action.
So if you’re having trouble convincing your 10-year-old that hand washing before meals is important, I suggest the interactive e-Bug game “Soapy Soakers”(click on “Horrid Hands”). You’re shrunk down to microbe size and placed onto an unwashed hand. Armed with a soap gun and confronted with gnarly-looking bugs, your job is to knock’em dead. Can you figure out how to chase the critter, jump in the air and shoot him, all at the same time? So cool!