BYU-Idaho students and professors are gearing up to do their part to bring awareness to Rexburg about the dangers of antibiotics misuse through World Antibiotics Awareness Week beginning November 13 through the 19.

Todd Kelson, a faculty member in BYU-Idaho's Biology Department, says the need to educate is crucial as doctors continue to combat new diseases and viruses. If people continue to misuse antibiotics, Kelson says, future illnesses could become stronger than any medical professional can prescribe to treat it.

"The first antibiotics were first discovered in 1940 or were first patented in 1940," Todd Kelson, a faculty member in BYU-Idaho's Biology Department, told BYU-Idaho Radio. "That means about 77 years ago, we started to use antibiotics. Most of us who are younger than 77-years-old have no idea what society was like without antibiotics. When we get sick, we have a drug and it makes us feel better. But now, more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, it seems like we're returning back to that society back before 1940."

Part of the abuse, Kelson says, comes from a lack of education about the proper way to take and dispose of medications. 

According to the World Health Organization, 64 percent of people believe antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, despite the fact that antibiotics have no impact on viruses and 32 percent of people surveyed believe they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than completing the prescribed course of treatment.

As a result, antibiotic misuse can lead to more powerful, more deadly illnesses with no cure.

Which is why students like Nathan Mueller and Vivian Ashton want to help educate people and conduct research themselves to stop the spread of powerful diseases. 

"It's important to know the facts about antibiotic use because we all want to be healthy, we all want to live good long lives and with antibiotic resistance, there's chances for diseases that have been treatable for decades to suddenly become killers once again," Nathan Mueller, a BYU-Idaho student studying chemistry told BYU-Idaho Radio. "Trying to find new antibiotics and stop the spread of these super bacteria is going to help us in the process of making sure that doesn't happen."

Part of that will include recognizing World Antibiotic Awareness Week starting November 13 through November 19. Kelson says students and professors will be at the finish line of the Turkey Trot on Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Hart Stadium Track where they will be handing out information about what people can do to decrease the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

The first 100 finishers of the race will also receive a small gift.

Looking toward the future, Kelson says it's up to both the present and upcoming generations of scientists and medical personnel to tackle this issue through research and education.

"About two-thirds to three-fourths of the drugs being prescribed by doctors are actually natural products, either from bacteria, fungi, from plants," Kelson said. "Here at BYU-Idaho, the students are looking for new antibiotics in their backyard. We collect soil here on the BYU-Idaho campus and in locations around town. The students bring these soil samples in and they isolate bacteria to find the antibiotics that are producing."

You can listen to the full interview below.