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Back to basics: Governing antibacterial resistance by means of mundane technoscience and accountability relations in a context of risk

Journal article
Authors Fredrik Bragesjö
Margareta Hallberg
Published in Health, Risk & Society
Volume 13
Issue 7-8
Pages 691-709
ISSN 1369-8575
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 691-709
Language en
Keywords risk; risk management; accountability; mundane technoscience; governance; antibiotic resistance
Subject categories Theory of science


In 2006, a sudden spread of a strain of a multi-resistant bacterium (Klebsiella pneumonia ESBL) arose inside of the Swedish university hospital in Uppsala. Measures of risk management were taken immediately to fight the bacteria spread in order to stop what soon developed into an epidemic. Officers at the hospital initiated a system of accountability relations, in this article analysed through a model developed by Neyland and Woolgar. We show how the introduction of mundane technoscientific procedures was closely related to efforts of making them understandable, recognisable, relevant and necessary to the actors involved. One and a half year later, the hospital declared the measures taken a success. A beneficial change of behaviour and practices among the employees, patients and visitors had occurred. Furthermore, the prescription of antibiotics had decreased and become more appropriate and additional rooms with their own sanitary facilities were available. Although succeeding in halting the epidemic, both the implementation and above all the sustainability of the accountability system proved exceedingly exigent. However, to uphold an adequate practice and behaviour in the long run, the system needs constant management and monitoring. Well aware of this difficulty, the officers had the intention of creating a new, self-supporting culture. So far, the ambition of achieving consistent and persistent norms and a new culture seems to have failed. Our conclusions are of relevance for understanding how systems of accountability may be used in risk management.

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