by Steve Hinchliffe
The emergence and transmission of microbes that are resistant to available medicines are major threats to medical practice and public health. The use of antibiotics and other antimicrobial treatments in food production adds to the risks of resistance. Food and farming account for the majority of the world’s consumption of those products. Continue reading
Professor Helen Lambert is Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Bristol. Her long-term work concerns popular therapeutics and medical plurality in India. She was the ESRC’s Research Champion for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from 2015-2017 and is leading an interdisciplinary research collaboration on Pathways to Antibiotic Use in China with colleagues at Anhui Medical University.
Most of the UK population have grown up with the message that patients must complete their course of antibiotics to stop drug resistance developing. A recent paper in the British Medical Journal caused international controversy by pointing out that far from preventing the emergence of antibacterial resistance, greater exposure to antibiotics increases the risk of acquiring resistant pathogens; and where research evidence exists, shorter courses of antibiotics are mostly (though not always) as effective as longer ones.
Today a landmark declaration agreeing to combat antimicrobial resistance has been signed by 193 countries at the United Nations General Assembly.
The agreement follows a worldwide campaign led by Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to highlight the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
The UK’s £369 million investment in international AMR surveillance and research programmes includes £50 million in Research Council investments.
Dr Helen Lambert is the ESRC’s AMR Research Champion. Here she suggests that stigmatising low-income countries won’t help get global consensus on tackling AMR.
In the run up to the UN Global Assembly’s high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance (21 September 2016), lobbying by European policymakers is stepping up a gear.
The meeting is seen as a unique opportunity to make a concrete impact on measures to stem the rise of drug-resistant infections at global level.
Today the ESRC has launched a new multi-million pound initiative which aims to expand understanding of how the behaviour of professionals, organisations and the public impacts on anti-microbial resistance (AMR) – particularly resistance to antibiotics and other drugs.
The new call is part of the wider cross-research council initiative on AMR. The ESRC is looking for academics, from across the social and medical sciences and the arts and humanities, to lead collaborative research on how we can enhance or control the spread of AMR.
As the new call launches, the University of Bristol‘s Dr Christie Cabral and Dr Helen Lambert, ESRC AMR Champion, look at how spreading knowledge across the sciences is key.
Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) is a ‘wicked problem’ which leads to drug resistant infections. The evidence is incomplete or contradictory, there are many different interest groups with different needs and views, and the ‘solution’ depends on how the ‘problem’ is framed and vice versa. Like other ‘wicked problems’ (eg climate change, species conservation, pandemic influenza) that result from the complex interaction of a huge range of influences, there is no single, simple solution and so our response needs to be multifaceted. Continue reading
Helen Lambert, the ESRC AMR Research Champion, is a social anthropologist at the University of Bristol School of Social and Community Medicine, who has done a vast range of health-related qualitative research.
Her research interests include the application of anthropology to public health research and evaluation; lay perceptions of illness and health-seeking practices in India and the UK; indigenous therapeutic traditions in South Asia; HIV and sexual health; people’s understandings of suicide; lay perceptions of risk; and notions of evidence in medicine, epidemiology and anthropology.
Here – marking European Antibiotics Awareness Day – Helen looks at the role social scientists can play in addressing the challenge of drug-resistant infections:
The global health problem of drug-resistant infections has been identified as a key issue for the UK, and the threat posed has been likened to terrorism or global warming. To date, many of the proposed solutions have focused on new technologies, such as the £10 million Longitude prize to develop a new diagnostic test for bacterial infections. Yet the phenomenon of antimicrobial resistance is largely a consequence of human action, and both its drivers and its consequences are socially patterned.