A kiosk-based survey at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in 2016-2018 allowed us to assess public knowledge of antibiotics and public attitudes toward microbes in museum goers. Over 22,000 visitors from 172 countries and territories answered several carefully designed questions about microbes and antibiotics. These visitors also entered age, gender, and country demographic data that allowed for stratification along these demographic and geographic divisions. Because museum goers are likely to be better informed about these and other science-based topics, the results described here can set a potential upper bound for public knowledge on these topics. Surprisingly, the results of our analysis of museum goers' answers about microbes and antibiotics indicate a substantial lack of familiarity with both topics. For example, overall only about 50% of respondents can correctly identify penicillin as an antibiotic and less than 50% of museum visitors view microbes as beneficial. The results described here suggest that we are perhaps off target with our educational efforts in this area and that a major shift in approach toward more basic microbial topics is warranted in our educational efforts.
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