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One for every occassion

You might have an old wooden-handled hammer and offer it to three people: to the first, it is a useful tool for a spot of weekend DIY; to the second it triggers a memory of their grandfather, who was a craftsman, the smoothed wood of the handle indicating years of use just like his one; to the third, it is a potential murder weapon, a way of sorting out a pressing personal problem. So it is here, in a farmer’s shop in Bangladesh, the white containers on the shelves are full of ‘medicines’ (pro- and anti-biotics included) ready to fix… well, that depends on who uses them and for what purpose. Trying to get a handle on how and why antibiotics are used seems to be just as important, or maybe even more so, than their actual efficacy. Perhaps that is why this shop was described to me as a ‘magic shop’: the antibiotics a magical quick-fix for a range of problems, including “care, productivity, hygiene and inequality”*. It is as if these drugs can be thought of as One Health indicators (akin to indicator species) that reveal the overall wellbeing of a whole ecosystem through their presence/absence. Hmmm… my research continues. [Thanks Steve for the photo. *From a paper by Laurie Denyer Willis and Clare Chandler.]

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