IAS-Research Talk by Cristina Moreno Lozano: “In between antibiotic reasons and rations. Introductory ideas to the study of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance from social science”

Date and time: January 17, Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Cristina Moreno Lozano

Title: In between antibiotic reasons and rations. Introductory ideas to the study of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance from social science


Today, health experts confirm that the development of antibiotic resistance and the decline in availability of efficacious antibiotic products is becoming a problem of extreme urgency for global health. Clinical guidelines, policy statements, scientific papers and health awareness materials have proliferated in the last few years. It is time to act, we are told, as the worst is yet to come. It seems that in a short period of time, we have passed from a spirit of optimism over the magic bullet, capable of offering the world a cure without precedents, to establish ourselves as a generation whose future healthcare could stagger if we do not act rapidly.

In the interstices between my learning of medical anthropology and biomedical science, I approach the question: how do we think the phenomenon of antibiosis[1]? The concept of “rational use” of antibiotics is used by most international health policy, implying a differentiation between rational/irrational individuals. Here, the ‘rational’ use of antibiotics is dissected: it is both about how we manage the antibiotic resources we have and how we think about them. It is about rations and reasons, about science and belief, science and culture, and everything in between. In these policy proposals, ideas of rationing, biosocial efficacy, responsibility and toxicity appear clearly, and are still to explore by qualitative research methods in the future.

This presentation hopes to leave some questions open for reflection: can social science and the humanities better understand antibiotic use from a viewpoint different from the dichotomy of rational/irrational? Can the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), significantly related to antibiotic use, help us do more than seek and describe rational/ irrational behaviours? AMR is made and remade as a scientific concept and an issue for global public health as we speak. It circulates through different spaces in society, arguably reshaping human-microbe relationships, the experience of infectious disease and its cure as it goes. Can we follow the genetic and chemical traces of antibiotics and AMR in order to better embrace the complexity of the issue?


[1] The concept of ‘Antibiosis’ is used to define a biological interaction between two or more microorganisms that is detrimental to at least one of them. The application of antibiotic substances by some microorganisms against others is only one example of this biological phenomenon.