New AMR Centre report: Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance through Social Theory

amrIt is World Antibiotic Awareness Week, when the World Health Organisation campaigns for the topic of antimicrobial resistance to be on the lips of the public, health workers and policy makers.

This year’s theme ‘Antibiotics: Handle with care’ carries apparently simple messages: (1) it reminds us that these substances are a precious resource and that their use should be preserved for occasions when a certified human or animal health professional deems them necessary; (2) we are advised that antibiotics should ‘never be shared or saved for the future.’

This week, the LSHTM’s Anthropology of AMR research group publishes an unusual report, Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance through Social Theory. The report introduces a range of traditional and contemporary theory, primarily from anthropology, and crucially demonstrates how these theories can be usefully applied to addressing AMR.

The authors frame their analyses around three domains: antimicrobials in practice; antimicrobial resistance and policy; and the science of antimicrobial resistance. In each domain, we see how social theories can help us to see what we may be missing in our dominant narratives and explanations around antibiotics and resistance. The report therefore helps us to see why the apparently simple messages of Antibiotics: Handle with care may not be easily taken up.

For example, when we frame antibiotics as a precious resource, how easy at the same time is it to deny their use, to dispose of them rather than save them for the future? When we promote the preservation of these antibiotics for those accessing care through certified professionals, what does this mean for those whose main route for care is through informal providers? In the absence of antimicrobials, what constitutes care in settings where these substances are the centre of healthcare provision?

The report is an output of a Wellcome Trust funded seed award to Dr Clare Chandler, Dr Eleanor Hutchinson and Dr Coll Hutchison, three anthropologists working in the department of Global Health and Development at LSHTM. The report’s findings will help to shape the engagement of high quality social science in addressing the complex issue of antimicrobial resistance in a meaningful and interdisciplinary way.

To read the report, click here. Follow the group on Twitter: @AnthroAMR