A ‘scary’ creative writing competition announced by the University of Hull is set to raise awareness of one of the biggest health challenges of our time – and spark interest in microbiology as a career path.
Now in its third year and in time for Halloween, the Coccus Pocus writing competition aims to increase awareness of the important problems of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and biofilm formation by microbial pathogens, and to generate enthusiasm in young people about the fascinating field of microbiology.
Biofilms are the thick, slimy layers formed on various surfaces by pathogenic microbes. These biofilms protect the micro-organisms against antibiotics, detergents and the attacks from the immune system. This happens because drugs and other antimicrobial compounds cannot penetrate the thick layer that shields the pathogens. This makes them difficult to kill. Increases of AMR in harmful micro-organisms such as MRSA and E. coli are a major public health concern, as they are leading to a huge increase in untreatable, life-threatening infections, especially in hospital environments.
Dr Georgios Efthimiou, a lecturer in microbiology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Hull, said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that a lack of public awareness about basic microbiological aspects can often lead to outbursts of panic and anxiety. Such aspects include the differences between bacteria, fungi and viruses, their structure and functions, their ability to survive on surfaces and their main routes of transmission.
The competition, which is aimed at school, college and university students, is supported by the National Biofilms Innovation Centre. and it is part of their #BiofilmAware campaign.
The winners of two separate age groups (12-17 and 18+) will each receive a £100 Amazon voucher and there are also prizes for runners-up in each section.
Read last year’s winning story and the runners up to get an idea of what the judges are looking for.
There are a few guidelines to follow: the word count is 500-2,000 words and the deadline for submission is October 31 at midnight. Each submission must include biofilms and/or AMR. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!
Dr Efthimiou said: “We hope that lots of students and pupils at our partner schools and colleges will enjoy the scary, Halloween theme and rise to the challenge by letting their imaginations explore the issue of biofilms and AMR in a creative way. We look forward to reading the submissions – and the winning entries will be announced in November."