About this Research Topic
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat for public health. The O’Neil Report of 2016 anticipates more deaths from resistant bacteria than from cancer by 2050. Although AMR is definitely a “One Health” issue and is a consequence of antibiotic misuse and overuse in both human and veterinary medicine, it is expected that two thirds of the worldwide growth in antimicrobial use (AMU) will come from the agricultural industry by 2030, in particular from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) experiencing an important increase in meat consumption.
Improving the management of AMU in farmed animals is therefore a critical component of dealing with AMR. Nevertheless, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution: successful strategies must be combined and tailored to the production systems and the social and economic context in which they operate. For this purpose, we need not only to better understand the detail of why and how antimicrobials are used but also the ways in which the AMR problem is framed and anchored in the sociotechnical and socioeconomic structures of veterinary medicine, the livestock industry and the global agri-food system.
In recent years two academic fields have started to work on those issues: social sciences and qualitative veterinary research.
The latter is quite a dynamic field where veterinary and animal scientists have truly considered that AMU doesn’t mechanistically ensue from prescription guidelines based on epidemiological, pharmacological or microbiological expert knowledge, but strongly rely on human behaviours, attitudes and perceptions which are sometimes difficult to change. This interest on farmers and veterinarians’ practices could be seen as a recognition that the AMR challenge requires an interdisciplinary approach driven by social sciences approaches, and have already produced quite important results. Yet progress in this research field often relies on a poor understanding of the true nature of social sciences, since it locates the focus of research and therefore responsibility for AMU change on individual behaviors and motivations instead of trying to understand the social and complex interactions between stakeholders as well as the structural components of AMU, such as knowledge, markets, technologies or policies.
On the other hand, there is extensive social sciences literature on animal health policy, biosecurity practices and on-farm animal disease control from within agricultural sociology and history, science and technology studies and human geography, but though it provides an understanding of on-farm contexts and actors it has poorly been joined up with research on AMR and AMU so far. The latter rather focus on the history of antibiotic regulation, on the framing of the AMR problem, or on human doctors’ prescription practices but hasn’t addressed yet larger issues such as the effects of labor division, professional status and jurisdictional conflicts over antibiotic prescription in veterinary medicine; the way AMU relates to farming styles, veterinary drug markets and food systems; the role of industrial stakeholders or how (public and private) policy, standards and regulations shape AMU.
This Research Topic seeks to create bridges between these two fields: qualitative veterinary research on the one hand, and social sciences on the other. The objective is to offer a true interdisciplinary dialogue which takes each side seriously. We believe that veterinary research can benefit from enlarging its theoretical perspectives (and therefore research design) on the structural component of AMU, while social sciences have still a lot to empirically understand about the conditions under which AMU lead to AMR, especially with regard to the huge variety of contexts and sectors of animal production.
We welcome proposals which rely on such an interdisciplinary dialogue and try to grasp both individual, collective and structural components of AMU. Proposals could for example address the following (non-exclusive) list of issues and perspectives :
- Knowledge, practices and technologies of animal disease management
- Labor conditions, professional and business models of animal health actors (farmers, veterinarians, livestock technicians)
- Economic and commercial strategies of stakeholders of the drug- and food-supply chains (pharmaceutical companies, agricultural cooperatives, feed mills, processors, retailers, etc.)
- Scientific and/or political controversies on antimicrobial resistance
- AMR policy (including One Health approaches) and regulation of the veterinary drug market
- Antimicrobial stewardship
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Keywords: antimicrobial use, antimicrobial resistance, qualitative veterinary research, veterinary social sciences
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