The Bash the Bug citizen science project has achieved three million classifications, after seeing a rapid increase in participation over the last two months.
Hosted on the Zooniverse platform, Bash the Bug has over 20,000 volunteers worldwide helping researchers to understand and predict which strains of tuberculosis bacteria will be resistant to which antibiotics. The project is based in the University of Oxford’s Modernising Medical Microbiology Group and supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.
TB is one of the top 10 causes of death globally and it is estimated that around 10 million people fell ill with the disease in 2018 with around 1.5 million deaths.
Bash the Bug volunteers are asked to classify images of M. tuberculosis (the bacterium that causes TB) samples that have been tested with different antibiotics. The samples are collected through the international CRyPTIC project, which Bash the Bug contributes to. The researchers hope that through looking at the genome of each M.tuberculosis infection, hospitals around the world will be able to routinely rapidly and accurately predict which drugs will be effective against the disease.
Having reached two million classifications on 12 March 2020, almost three years since the project began, the Bash the Bug team were delighted when they then achieved three million classifications just 38 days later on 19 April. That’s a classification every three seconds on average.
Dr Philip Fowler, lead researcher for the project, said: “The huge increase in classifications done by our volunteers has meant we’ve caught up with the data being produced by all the CRyPTIC labs worldwide which will mean we will be able to release our first dataset on time. We’re grateful to all the volunteers who helped to achieve this, the work we are doing together is vital to develop more effective treatments for patients with drug-resistant TB around the world.”
To celebrate the milestone Dr Fowler has created an image of the Bash the Bug logo overlaid on the usernames of all its volunteers (pictured).