26 November 2013
A week long gathering of health experts, academics, students and social activists from 22 countries around the world has called for an ecological and social approach to tackle the issue of antibiotic resistance (ABR). Papers, lectures and artistic performances were presented on these aspects of ABR in a series of seminars and workshops organised in Cuenca, Ecuador from 9-11 October by ReAct Latin America. “Bacterial resistance is a phenomenon similar to climate change. So we need to understand it holistically and not only as a narrow medical issue” said Dr Otto Cars, Director, ReAct. He was speaking at the inaguration of a seminar titled “Restoring the Harmony of the Ecosystem to Contain Bacterial Resistance”.
Papers presented at the seminar included “Good life, ecosystems, the microbial world and health” by Hellen Wallace (United Kingdom) and Camilo Rodriguez (Mexico), who addressed the issue of GM mosquitoes to control dengue. In his presentation Juan Martínez Alier (Spain), outlined the importance of the new concepts of environment emerging in Latin America, particularly under the influence of indigenous worldviews.
Gustavo Vega (Ecuador) traced the history of the concept of ‘Sumak Kawsay’ (Good living) to the wisdom of indigenous peoples : Quechua , Kichwa , Aymara, Guarani and Maya. Satya Sivaraman, Communication Advisor, ReAct, spoke about the need tochange popular perceptions of bacteria as being mere agents of disease and focus also on their contribution to the sustenance of all forms of life on Earth. This he said would help put ABR in a larger ecological context and also remove fear of microorganisms and infection that drives a lot of irrational use of antibiotics.
Anthony So, Strategic Policy Advisor, ReAct spoke about the need to find a balance between ensuring access to and preventing excess use of antibiotics by understanding the financial incentives that drive innovation, production and distribution of these drugs. Fabian Patinho (Ecuador) combined data, reflections, cartoons and humour in his paper “My bacteria and a story of unconditional love”. “When two people meet, it is like one with bacteria that are accepting other bacteria. Love is a matter of bacteria, ” he said.
Artists participaing in the seminar on ‘Reimagining Resistance’ pointed to the various ways in which medicine, communication and art intersect with each other. Geovanny Sagbay (Ecuador), who put together an exhibition titled “Art and science to reimagine resistance”, said the meeting points of these different disciplines offered inspiration for producing new works of music, dance and other art forms. A theater performance called “What’s clean, what’s dirty?”, presented by Marcela Bobatto and Gerardo Segovia (Argentina), challenged notions of ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’, and the exaggerated need to sanitise both one’s home and body.
The weeklong program also included workshops on the clinical aspects of ABR where important presentations were made by Dulce Maria Calvo (Cuba), Caio Salvino (Brazil), Claudia Band (Peru), Lorena Encalada (Ecuador), Armando Guevara, José Luis Vivas and Lorena Abadía-Patiño (Venezuela).