Much like the response to climate change, every individual can take steps toward amore sustainable relationship with antimicrobials to delay the onslaught ofresistant strains. To start this conversation with people in the community, graduate student Colleen McCollum founded the University of Colorado Boulderchapter of ARMOR, the Antimicrobial Resistance Mediation OutReach program, almost a year ago.
Working with other graduate students in her lab, Colleen organizes tabling and craft events (usually enticing passerby with free food) to set the scene for crucial conversations about how to use antimicrobials in an age where their efficacy is threatened.
At tabling events, ARMOR reps have conversations with community members about small steps they can take to stave off antimicrobial resistance. Things like finishing entire prescribed antibiotic courses, buying antibiotic-free dairy and meat, and using antimicrobial-free soap can make a huge difference in the community. Interactions usually go well, with folks being highly receptive to steps they can take, but CU ARMOR wanted to take it further.
"We can tell people to avoid using antimicrobial soap, but this event gives them an alternative right then and there," says Colleen. To reach an open audience, CU ARMOR teamed up with a residence hall on campus, Darley Hall, andinvited residents to make their own ARMOR-approved, antimicrobial-free hand soap.
"Residence halls house hundreds of students, all of whom share restrooms and community spaces; it's a petri dish of diseases. It's the last place you want to see antimicrobial resistance," warns Dana Stamo,co-founder of the CU ARMOR chapter.
For several hours on a Thursday evening, residents could walk in and make their own custom soap—liquid or bar—with hand-picked fragrances and shapes. All soaps are, of course, antimicrobial free, and come with individual ARMOR seals of approval. Colleen reports that students in attendance were open to a discussion of how to mitigate the development of resistant bacteria in their community. This made for great conversation while soaps hardened.