Antibiotic Resistance explained using Game of Thrones

Someone on twitter suggested that if we described the threat of antibiotic resistance in terms of Game of Thrones, it might be easier to grab attention and understand. I mean, it’s all in the news about how resistant superbugs are going to kill us all…


So here we go: (Massive spoilers for GoT warning)

White Walkers = near-unkillable superbugs

So for a long time, bad guys could be killed with sharp, pointy things, and heavy, smashy things. Like bacteria can be killed with antibiotics.  Only some people/things/bugs have managed to change and can no longer be killed by sharpness or smashing or even the strongest antibiotics. This is bad. Modern life sort of depends on us being able to kill things that want to kill us. If we can’t, it’s a bit of a game over, really.


But right now, they seem like they’re a long way away, and they only affect wildlings/ other people you don’t really care about but read about in the Daily Mail.

whitewalkersgiphy (1)

The Starks =  scientists and media saying DOOM GLOOM APOCALYPSE

Yes,we know, winter is coming. You could go around telling everyone that they’re all going to get old and die. You’re right, but you’re also not going to win any popularity contests, and you’ll stop getting invited to parties.


Nights Watch = all the Doctors, scientists, farmers, politicians, everyone trying to do something about it

Yeah, good luck with that. You’re staring into the face of agents-of-near-certain-death and your available tools are a really shaggy smelly coat and some questionable facial hair. You’re under-resourced, under-appreciated, and no-one really seems to listen. But you have to try…


Unfortunately no one really wants to hear bad news and requests for more money from a  greasy chap with questionable hygiene, when they conflict with your nice, rich friends and important economic growth targets…

Lannisters/King’s Landing = Most governments/the powers in charge 

Sure, you can believe there might be an issue somewhere far away, but there are taxes to collect, countries to run… Actually, I can sort of see this point of view – if Cersei had woken up every day and spent the morning making frowns and replying to every question with ‘Winter is Coming’ she never would have had time to betray everyone, get crazy revenge  and usurp the iron throne.


Actually, some governments are trying to do something – maybe they’re more a Stannis-at-the-Wall than a Lannister-on-the-throne. But they’re going to need more help from a lot more people, and they’ve still got other pressing concerns, like how to kill Cersei and stop red women from burning things.

The Wall = Time

It’s going to fall. Superbugs are going to spread. (Season 8 spoilers.. oops too late… )


Dragonglass = new antibiotics in the future

It’s nice to believe a magic weapon will appear to solve everything, but it’s going to take a while to get the stuff out of Dragonstone, onto weapons, and into the hands of people able to do stabby things to the bad guys. Just like it’s bloody difficult to get a new antibiotic out that works.  And in the meantime whilst everyone’s waiting, a lot of people are going to cop it.


Would quite like some dragonglass now already

Peasants = Everyone else 

Sure White Walkers might be real, but right now there are soldiers trampling your crops, direwolves stealing your sheep, and Tywins and Littlefingers using you as pawns in their ultimately-futile-masterplans…  Who cares about frozen northern zombies when there’s no gruel for breakfast, or lunch, or tea?  Except when one day you open the door, and there’s a walking icicle in your face.



So, what can the average joe do? Well, no one thing is going to save us all. Even Daenerys and her magic dragons can’t save the world single-handedly. One thing you can do is pledge to be an Antibiotic Guardian here. Another thing we can all do is Get Informed, and make sure that the issue isn’t continually relegated to the bottom of the agenda.  By finding out more, you can decide what you want to do, and whether it’s worth caring about.  Luckily the Night’s Watch of this day and age have the internet and graphic designers, rather than a chap who looks like he needs a bath and a dentist.


Info from the CDC or   European Antibiotic Awareness Day resources aka What Jon Snow is trying to tell Daenerys and all the others.

Probably the most comprehensive summary on the state of affairs from the Lord Commander Mormont-err-Jim O-Neill

e-bug for kids

It’s true that there are loads of other apocalypsey things out there – Climate Change, Nukes and people who have nukes, unexploded super-volcanoes and things…experts will probably always say *their* threat is the worstest. Everyone is free to choose their own and choosing one doesn’t mean the others aren’t true…After all GRRM is GRRM and who’s to say if the end-game is really the Red God taking over, or Euron flying in on a squadron of dragons from old-Valyria (who wouldn’t want to see dragon-riding vikings….)


Agree with this? Totally disagree? Got any better analogies? Tell me! Always fascinated to hear.

Thanks to @elizbeech, @e_charani and @drcjlittle for inspiration!

Images from HBO who own it all. Generated from and

Edit: 21/09/17 to change title (formerly: How antibiotic resistance is like game of thrones) , to move around Antibiotic Guardian link suggestion and minor changes to first paragraph about white walkers and antibiotics. 

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