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KS4: Antibiotic Use and Antimicrobial Resistance

This lesson introduces students to the growing global public health threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through an agar plate experiment.

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Learning objectives
All students will:
  • Understand that antibiotics do not work on viruses, as bacteria and viruses have different structures
  • Understand that bacteria are continually adapting to develop ways of not being killed by antibiotics, this is called antibiotic resistance
  • Understand that taking antibiotics also affects your useful bacteria, not just the ones causing an infection
  • Understand that antibiotic resistant bacteria can be carried by healthy or ill people and can be passed on silently to others
  • Understand that antibiotic resistance spreads between different bacteria within our body
  • Understand that controlling antibiotic resistance is everyone’s responsibility, including you
Background Information

In some cases the immune system needs help. Antimicrobials are medicines used to kill or slow the growth of microbes. Antibiotics are either bactericidal, meaning they kill the bacteria, or they are bacteriostatic, meaning they slow the growth of bacteria.

Bacteria are continually adapting to develop ways of not being killed by antibiotics. This is called antibiotic resistance. Resistance develops due to mutations in the bacterial DNA. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can be carried by healthy or ill people and can spread to others just as other types of microbes would, for example by shaking hands or touching all types of surfaces on animals, vegetables or food where bacteria are present.

Antibiotic resistance arises in bacteria found in the body, animals or the environment, due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. The more often a person takes antibiotics, the more likely they are to develop antibiotic resistant bacteria in their body. To prevent resistance, antibiotics should only be taken as prescribed by a doctor or nurse.

In this lesson plan, students will learn about how antibiotics work to kill bacteria and how bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. They will learn that not all antibiotics are effective treatments for all bacteria and that this is why it is important to take antibiotics as prescribed by a doctor.

Main activity:
  • Antibiotics agar plate experiment
Main Activity video
Extension activities:
Curriculum links


  • Scientific thinking
  • Experimental skills and strategies
  • Analysis and evaluation


  • Health and prevention


  • Reading
  • Writing

Art & Design:

  • Graphic communication
Supporting Materials
Teacher sheets
KS4 AMR teacher guidance
KS4 How antibiotic resistance arises - video transcript
TS1 Agar experiment advance preparation
TS2 Agar experiment answers
Student worksheets
SW1 Agar experiment worksheet
SW2 Agar experiment conclusions
SW3 Agar experiment conclusions
SW4 Antibiotics wrong or right worksheet
Student handouts
SH1 Antibiotic sensitivity test results