Resistant bacteria in society: Travelling through practices of policy, healthcare and science

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing global public health concern that calls for comprehensive transdisciplinary action. Although AMR refers to biological mechanisms of bacterial resistance, it is a deeply social phenomenon that is influenced by economic, political and cultural processes. This research analyses how AMR is incorporated and practised in different settings of policy, healthcare and science and what kind of reality is constructed through these practices. Applying qualitative social science methodology, it shows how current public health practices and policies focus on the opportunities provided by antibiotics. Following this, it demonstrates this focus is too narrow as antibiotics have a limited capacity to prevent infectious diseases. Instead, public health policies should focus on bacteria themselves and their biological mechanisms that determine their boundaries of co-existence with humans. As the global spread of COVID-19 has demonstrated, reliance on technological solutions - such as vaccination or antibiotics - is not sufficient. Pandemic preparedness should be rooted in the prevailing causes of their emergence and spread: poor practices of animal husbandry, increasing market demands for meat, weak healthcare systems and socio-economic inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Horstman, Klasien, Supervisor
  • Hoebe, Christian, Supervisor
  • Wolffs, Petra, Co-Supervisor
Award date21 Oct 2020
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • bio-social
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • practices
  • living with bacteria
  • policy
  • knowledge production

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