Anti-biosis – social and cultural inquiries into human-microbe relations

Editors: Professor Steve Hinchliffe (University of Exeter, UK), Professor Clare Chandler (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK), Professor Komatra Chuengsatiansup (Ministry of Public Health, Thailand), and Professor Helen Lambert (Bristol Medical School, UK)

Scope: As a pinnacle of twentieth-century medical innovation, one could argue that antibiotics, and more broadly antimicrobials, have fundamentally altered ways of life. Everything from the control of common infectious diseases, to the possibility for densely housed, mass-produced livestock, to the availability of minor surgery, to the ability to treat life-threatening diseases are entangled with effective antibiosis.  

And yet, the role of antimicrobials cannot be taken for granted. Resistance to these medicines is accelerated though their extensive and intensive uses. Resistant bacteria, as well as mobile genetic elements, are now known to be widespread in some communities and environments. The threat of resistance, alongside corporate, market and governance failures that militate against new therapies or alternative treatments, raise the spectre of a post-antibiotic future.  Needless to say, the effects could be severe.

The requirement to find therapeutic alternatives, to develop more targeted therapies, to reduce unnecessary medicinal dependencies, all pose social, cultural and economic challenges, as the impetus to tackle antimicrobial resistance is differentially taken up - or imposed - and reconfigured across diverse scientific and biomedical establishments as well as governance regimes and cultures worldwide. We need to understand the place and use of medicines; we need to trace new pathways and overcome barriers to innovative practices; we need to analyse regulatory environments and we need to build social capacity for change. Only by moving beyond narrowly biomedical visions of resistance can we realise the aim of sustaining effective health treatments, while delivering food security and protecting livelihoods.

This collection comprises research that offers social science and humanities perspectives on the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance.

All papers submitted to Collections are subject to the journal’s standard editorial criteria and policies. This includes the journal’s policy on competing interests.

fluorescent cells under a microscope