Antibiotic assemblages and their implications for the prevention of antimicrobial resistance

Davis, Mark DM and Lohm, Davina and Flowers, Paul and Whittaker, Andrea (2022) Antibiotic assemblages and their implications for the prevention of antimicrobial resistance. Social Science and Medicine, 315. 115550. ISSN 0277-9536 (

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Individual antibiotic use for common infections is a focus for public health efforts seeking to prevent antimicrobial resistance (AMR). These approaches employ a binary opposition of responsible and irresponsible antibiotic use with a focus on the knowledge, behaviours and intentions of the individual. To overcome these unhelpful tendencies and reveal new entry points for AMR prevention, we adopted assemblage theory to analyse personal experience narratives on individual antibiotic use in community settings. Antibiotic use was irregular, situationally diverse and shaped by factors not always under personal control. Individuals were focussed on preventing, moderating and treating infections that threatened their health. Our analysis shows that antibiotic assemblages are both cause and effect of individual efforts to manage infections. We suggest that AMR prevention needs to look beyond the antibiotic as object and the (ir)responsible use binary to engage with the antibiotic effects individuals seek in order to manage infectious diseases. This antibiotic assemblage orientation is likely to be more meaningful for individuals seeking out methods for promoting their health in the face of common infections.