Science game Superbugs explores antibiotic resistance

A new science game called Superbugs explores a global problem facing us today: bacteria’s growing resistance to antibiotics.

Developer Nesta released the free mobile science game for iOS and Android. It offers a real-time puzzle where players must destroy lethal bacteria while prolonging the effectiveness of antibiotics, even as antimicrobial resistant “superbugs” become more prevalent. It’s available for smartphones and tablets.

The World Health Organization estimates that antibiotics add 20 years to our lives. Currently, 700,000 people a year die because of antibiotic resistance. This number could rise to 10 million by 2050 without further intervention.

“We know that our daily behavior can lead to resistance, like not finishing antibiotic doses or sharing prescriptions,” Nesta wrote on the Longitude Prize website, a £10 million competition to help stop antibiotic resistance. “Therefore, awareness around proper antibiotic consumption is crucial to reducing resistance. Games have a huge uptake among young people, and can be especially effective to convey scientific content, sometimes even contributing to scientific research.”

In 2011, a science game made a big different in deciphering the structure of an AIDS-causing monkey virus called the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) retroviral protease, according to a blog post on the Longitude Prize website. People who played Fold-it, which lets players manipulate 3D shapes that represent proteins, helped scientists find solutions that led to the breakthrough.

Another such science game is Cancer Research UK’s Cell Slider. More than 200,000 players helped classify roughly 2 million cancer images.

“Games may once have been dismissed as ‘a waste of time’ or worse,” reads the blog post, “but they have grown up and are now one of the key mediums of our world. It’s time for us to pay serious attention to play.”

For those looking for a science game about bacteria and antibiotics for PCs, rather than mobile devices, Nesta recommends Public Health England’s e-Bug games.

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