Antibiotics are our best friend and our worst enemy. These drugs are a vital tool in fighting infections which, left untreated, could cause serious illness or even death. 

But overuse of antibiotics is encouraging bacteria to become resistant to their effects, leaving infections to worsen – sometimes fatally.

A new project called Story Bug, led by researchers at UCL, is aiming to re-shape how we think about and value antibiotics by telling the stories of people who have been affected by antibiotic-resistant infection.

Lead researcher Becky McCall, from UCL’s Institute of Health Informatics and PhD student on our National PhD Training Programme in Antimicrobial Resistance Research, says: ‘Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest healthcare challenges facing us in the UK and globally. Together, we need to find ways to prevent resistance from emerging. Story Bug aims to be part of this effort by gathering personal stories of people who have been affected – either themselves or their loved ones – so we can gauge attitudes towards antibiotics and hopefully change people’s thinking.’ 

Antibiotic resistance – often referred to as part of the umbrella term antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – happens when bacteria evolve ways to survive treatment. According to a study in The Lancet medical journal, AMR was associated with an estimated 4.95 million deaths worldwide in 2019, of which 1.2 million were directly attributable to drug resistance.

Factors such as misuse and overuse of antibiotics (for example, when they’re prescribed to treat the common cold) have accelerated this phenomenon of resistance. Resistance is concerning, as medical professionals rely on antibiotics to treat a range of life-threatening conditions, including pneumonia. And we often hear about antibiotic resistance in the media through stories about hospital ‘superbugs’ such as MRSA or Clostridium difficile (C. diff).

If you or a friend/relative have been affected by antibiotic resistance, Story Bug would like to hear your personal story of this experience – a situation where use of one antibiotic after another failed to stop an infection, and it worsened. 

You can contribute by writing answers to questions on Story Bug’s online platform, or by recording an audio or video story on your phone and submitting it via WhatsApp, WeTransfer, or Story Bug’s closed Facebook group.

Find out more by visiting 

Follow Story Bug on Twitter @StoryBugProject