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.
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.