ESKAPE room educates about antibiotic resistance

Emily Holzer | Photo Courtesy
Holzer poses outside of the ESKAPE room.

NDSU student develops escape room to inform about threats of antibiotic resistance

North Dakota State University student Emily Holzer is hosting an escape room to educate students on the threat of antibiotic resistance. Holzer developed the escape room for her honors capstone project. Her project is named ESKAPE the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis, after the ESKAPE acronym of the most common bacteria associated with antibiotic resistance. Each letter of ESKAPE is for the following bacteria: Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Enterobacter.

“It’s always going to be impacting me,” Holzer said. “I want to be a veterinarian. I’m going to have to make the decision a lot, does this pet need antibiotics or not.”

Holzer first became interested in antibiotic resistance when she was in high school. As a junior in high school, Holzer conducted a science research project on the topic. In college, Holzer wrote a comic strip about it.

“Whenever [teachers] say you can do a project on whatever you want I would always pick that topic,” Holzer said.

Holzer said the idea for the project came from an obsession with escape rooms while wanting to incorporate antibiotic resistance.

“It was like fireworks in my brain,” Holzer said. “Like, ‘Oh put this idea together with this one.’ I really wanted to do an escape room, but it had to have something important.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria or fungi are able to withstand medication made to kill them. Those unaffected bacteria or fungi continue to grow but the original antibiotic is no longer effective.

Antibiotic resistance has been a concern since the beginning of antibiotics. Alexander Fleming, the inventor of penicillin, in his 1945 Noble Prize Lecture talked about his own concerns. Fleming mentioned that “It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body. The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”

“I just want [people] to feel like they learned something and had fun doing it,” Holzer said.

“I just want [people] to feel like they learned something and had fun doing it”

Emily Holzer, NDSU Student

According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance “is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

A study conducted by the United Nations found that if no action is taken by 2050, nearly 10 million people will die every year as a result of antibiotic resistance. Currently, almost 700,000 people die each year because of drug-resistant diseases worldwide.

Danielle Condry is an Assistant Professor of Practice at NDSU. Condry is the faculty adviser of the escape room. According to Condry, the scientific community’s first line of defense is reducing the use of antibiotics.

“Anytime you use an antibiotic you risk selecting for resistant organisms,” Condry said. “The more we know, the better we can treat effectively.”

Condry explained that a majority of antibiotics that are used come from agriculture. The increased usage of antibiotics in agriculture began in the 1950s.

“It was found that antibiotics increase the yield of products,” Condry said. “A huge reduction in antibiotic use there would be useful.”

During that same time, antibiotics were also be prescribed to individuals with illnesses that weren’t affected by the medication.

Condry referred to antibiotics as a double-edged sword. The battle between curing illnesses and creating new resistant organisms.  

“The more we know about these organisms and the more we understand resistance the better we can use the sword,” Condry said.

Condry said there are four things individuals can do to prevent antibiotic resistance. The first being, use all antibiotics as prescribed and don’t take other people’s antibiotics. Condry explained when getting prescribed an antibiotic, there is research that is done about when, how often and how much should be taken.

“Forgoing those recommendations, you could be allowing microbes to regrow and further develop,” Condry said.

Secondly, get vaccinated. According to Condry, by eliminating the chance of getting a blank the prevents it from becoming antibiotic-resistant. Third, buy antibiotic-free products.

“Consumers and what they request in their products have a lot more power to change things than government regulation,” Condry said.

Finally, wash hands regularly. According to Conrdy, this is the prime way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The ESKAPE room will hold sessions at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. every Wednesday from March 11 through April 8. Sessions will also be held at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on March 14 and March 29. The escape room is located in Van Es Hall in room 136. To sign up or get information contact Emily Holzer at

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