ACADEMICS in Southampton are launching a pioneering study to prevent deadly superbugs building resistance to antibiotics.

Global health research warns that the rise in dangerous bacteria could render the medication ineffective within the next four decades.

Now specialists from Southampton University are urging people in the city to join the race against time and preserve medication for the future by taking part in research exploring how and why people are using them.

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection and work by killing bacteria or stopping them from reproducing and spreading.

But their overuse can lead to new strains of “antibiotic resistant” bacteria and the emergence of superbugs more immune to the medication.

Doctors across the world, including in Hampshire, are already working to reduce millions of non-urgent antibiotics prescriptions to their patients. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that effective antibiotics could run out by 2050.

Dr Jaimie Ellis is leading a study asking people how and why people use the medication.

Dr Ellis, a research fellow at the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences, warned growing resistance means conditions such as the common cold, coughs, throat or ear infections could eventually become fatal in the future for some patients.

She said: “We need to act and preserve the effectiveness of the antibiotics we have now- so they they can be given to the people who need them most such as the elderly, the young or people with underlying health conditions and also to ensure they are effective when they are used to protect after surgery, chemotherapy and child birth.”

Her research looks at how people’s decision to take the medication is influenced by doctors, family, friends, social networks and research on the internet.

She said: “I am interested in finding out why people decide to take antibiotics or why they decide not to take antibiotics. I want to know who are they seeking advice from and does this information affect their decision to use antibiotics or not.

“Understanding people’s decision making processes, and their understanding of antibiotic resistance will be an important step forward in helping to tackle antimicrobial resistance. We want to get a variety of views from people of all ages.”

Anyone who has been prescribed the medication for a cough, cold, chest infection, ear or throat infection in the past few months or have administered them to their children can take part in the study. Contact 023 8059 7776 or email to join the study.