Text books deficient in explanation of resistance to antibiotics

In order to avoid the problem of resistance to antibiotics growing in the future, it is necessary for the public to have knowledge of how resistance emerges. But despite resistance to antibiotics being mentioned in the course objectives, five out of the six most common textbooks do not deal with the issue, as shown by two researchers from Linköping University who have been studying Swedish biology books.

In order to avoid the problem of resistance to antibiotics growing in the future, it is necessary for the public to have knowledge of how resistance emerges. But despite resistance to antibiotics being mentioned in the course objectives, five out of the six most common textbooks do not deal with the issue, as shown by two researchers from Linköping University who have been studying Swedish biology books.

“We were surprised that textbooks written with the aim of educating people don’t provide deeper knowledge of resistance to antibiotics. How the resistance arises is not explained, nor what the consequences of antibiotic use might be,” says Gustav Bohlin (pictured), PhD student in visual leaning and communication.

In order to find out what information the public receives about resistance to antibiotics Mr Bohlin and Gunnar Höst have been studying what evolutionary explanations are used in descriptions of the development of resistance to antibiotics.

“This approach is important,” Mr Bohlin says, “in order to understand how resistance to antibiotics arises and why special measures are recommended by the health care system. With a better evolutionary understanding, for example, the misconception that there are people who become resistant to antibiotics – whereas in actual fact it’s the bacteria that become resistant – would not be so commonly held.”

The biology course in Swedish grades 7 to 9 is mandatory and something that every Swedish schoolchild goes through. In the syllabus it says that one aim of the course should be to use biological concepts and theories to explain biological connections in the human body and in society. Both the mechanisms of evolution and antibiotic resistant bacteria are listed as central areas of knowledge in the course.

“When students go out into society as citizens, they should have the tools to understand the world and everything in it. Therefore we were surprised that there was only one book that took this on and actually described this connection. So whether schoolchildren are given some knowledge about how resistance to antibiotics develops depends on which course book the school chooses,” Mr Bohlin says.

In the study, published in the International Journal of Science Education Part B, Mr Bohlin and Mr Höst studied the extent of evolutionary explanations for resistance to antibiotics, in teaching materials, in newspapers and on websites.


Publication:

Evolutionary Explanations for resistance to antibiotics in Daily Press, Online Websites and Biology Textbooks in Sweden. Gustav Bohlin and Gunnar E. Höst