New diagnostics for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in India: Innovating control and controlling innovation

Nora Engel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Among the challenges for tuberculosis control is the emergence of multi-drug resistance, which has led to the search for new diagnostic solutions worldwide. The focus of this article is the interplay between innovation of diagnostics for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in India and control through standardization of operational and technical processes. Innovation in diagnostics is closely related to processes of standardization. As a form of social ordering, standardization not only controls patients, bacteria, artefacts, health-care staff and medical providers, but also the diagnostic process as such. On the basis of qualitative fieldwork, I analyse the innovative efforts of a demonstration project for a new test by an international NGO and the development of tests by smaller players. The main argument is that a balance is needed between the extremes of controlling the diagnostic process through standardization in such a way that it becomes exclusive for particular local settings or expertise, and innovating a diagnostic test without standardizing operational processes, which is not programmatically feasible. These negotiations between innovation and control can be found in situated assessments, yet require flexibility in standardization. BioSocieties (2012) 7, 50-71. doi:10.1057/biosoc.2011.23; published online 6 February 2012
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-71
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • health-care innovation
  • standardization
  • flexibility of standards
  • situated assessment
  • multi-drug resistant tuberculosis
  • India


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