Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Understanding antibiotic resistance

2 A simple way to reduce the spread of infections

You might recall from Week 1 that, before the discovery of antibiotics, the best way to treat infections was to prevent them.

Activity 1 Preventing infections: a lesson from history

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch the video below in which you will see how, even before we knew bacteria existed, the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis (Figure 3) demonstrated the importance of hygiene in controlling the spread of infections.

Described image
Figure 3 Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865).

Video: Ignaz Semmelweis and the birth of infection control [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

We all now know how important it is to wash our hands but Semmelweis’s colleagues refused to accept his findings. Thinking back to Week 1 of this course, what scientific discoveries might have led to a wider acceptance of Semmelweis’s hypothesis that hand washing could prevent the spread of infection?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

When Semmelweis proposed his theory that hand washing could control the spread of infections, many people believed that miasmas – bad components of the air – were the cause of disease. Once Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch provided the scientific proof for germ theory, the value of hand washing was appreciated and Semmelweis was given credit for his work.

Sanitation and hygiene have improved since the 19th century but 2.3 billion people in low-middle-income countries (LMICs) do not have basic sanitation facilities (WHO and UNICEF, 2017). Even in high-income countries (HICs), with access to good sanitation, hygienic behaviours are often poorly carried out. Improving sanitation and hygiene can prevent infection, reducing the need for treatment and limiting the opportunities for antibiotic resistance to develop.

To understand how improving sanitation and hygiene can reduce the spread of infectious diseases, you first need to look at how infections are transmitted.

UAR_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371