Schoolkids get lessons on how SNOT to spread germs

20 November 2018

Eight university researchers and lecturers went back to school to teach primary pupils how to stop the spread of infection with a fun lesson from Professor Snot to celebrate World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Pupils at Cadder Primary School in Glasgow’s Maryhill got a lesson in handwashing and sneeze etiquette and found out from the expert team at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) how preventing the spread of germs could lessen the need for antibiotics.

Dr Val Ness, Sally Stewart, Lynne Haahr, and PhD students Lucy Gozdzielewska, Ayo Matuluko and Laura Fregonese are all part of the Safeguarding Health through Infection Prevention (SHIP) research group.

Two nursing lecturers Ingrid Rutherford and Bill McDonald – who dressed up as Professor Snot - showed primary three, four and five pupils how far their sneeze travels using a ‘snot runway’.

Professor Snot said: “I loved the pupils’ unbridled enthusiasm. The kids were just fantastic and really engaged with it, which made it really enjoyable for us as well.”

Pupils were also taught about the link between good hygiene and health, how to protect themselves against infection with simple handwashing techniques and the overuse of antibiotics to inappropriately treat viral infections.

Seven-year-old pupil Naimah Carlin thought the lesson was “great fun” and added: “I really learned a lot. I learned how to wash my hands properly and about germs.”

Cadder Primary teacher Calum MacLean said: “It was great having the team from GCU visit the school. Not only does it keep the kids engaged, but it also lets them get views, opinions and information from different professionals who are actually in that field.”

Dr Ness, a researcher and lecturer, said: “Good hand hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of infection from person to person. A large number of GP appointments, for children under 14-years-old, are due to infections and many school days are lost every year because of infections.

“Children of primary school age are developing habits for life and they are also good at spreading messages via their friends and family. Therefore, the importance of hand hygiene in primary schools cannot be emphasised enough.”

World Antibiotic Awareness Week, organised by the World Health Organization, is a campaign to raise global awareness of antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policymakers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.

New research just published in The Lancet by an EU-wide team of experts, including GCU Professor of Infection Prevention and Control Jacqui Reilly, who examined data on more than a dozen combinations of antibiotic-resistant bacteria across Europe, found that 33,110 people die each year as a result of drug-resistant infections.

To mark Antibiotic Awareness Week this week, Health Protection Scotland has published Scottish One Health Antimicrobial Use and Antimicrobial Resistance Report on antibiotic use and resistance in Scotland during 2017. It acknowledges the groundbreaking work of the SHIP Research Group on antimicrobial resistance led by Professor Paul Flowers.

Dr Eleanor Anderson, Consultant Lead for the Control of Antimicrobial Resistance in Scotland programme, Health Protection Scotland, explained: "This report reminds us all that antimicrobial resistance remains a major public health issue.”