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The University of Southampton
Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Community microbe workshops a great success

Published: 20 November 2022
Workshop logo
Workshop logo

Starting in September 2022, a series of workshops on microbes as our neighbours began.

The 'Microbial Neighbouring' workshops continued the activity first pump-primed by Global-NAMRIP, on bringing in the skills of geographers to teams addressing the threat of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and the need for Infection Prevention, and through them forming dialogues with the public to better understand each other and how we should view microbes. Earlier successful projects in this series that grew from this initial funding by Global-NAMRIP include:

Key geographers in these studies are Dr Paul Hurley and Professor Emma Roe (from Southampton University) and Professor Alex Hughes (Newcastle University), with collaborations including the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the University of Malawi, the Food Standards Agency etc.

The 'Microbial Neighbouring' workshops were developed around the idea of Microbial Neighbouring. The workshops created a novel space for students, staff, researchers and professionals in the UK and Africa to consider the microbial life in, on and around them. Led by Dr Paul Hurley, the workshops were supported by artist and illustrator Sam Church, who illustrated the conversations he was hearing throughout some of the workshops and created the visual illustrations (shown below). These were provided to the participants during the workshop to help the participants focus on the discussions that they had just had.

The mix of individuals enabled participants to realise the wide range of attitudes. Professor Leighton commented: "It was so marked to hear one person from the UK talk about personal hygiene, another to discuss fear of infection on public transport, another to discuss food spoilage, and then hear one of our participants from Africa relate how food parcels sent by NGOs to the community had caused serious illness because they had not been designed for storage in that climate, and caused serious microbial disease."

The concept of using 'neighbouring' as a focus for these workshops developed as an accessible way of considering the interactions of human and non-human life. It developed through initial public engagement workshops and through reflective writing undertaken by the team. It draws directly from the microbiological concept of ‘microbial communities’ and from geographical thinking about the practices that we undertake as neighbours. We believe that the idea of ‘more-than-human neighbouring’ can be a really useful tool for communicating with publics, as well as for new research on social-microbial challenges like pandemics. The team has plans for a much larger project to explore some of these challenges through new research and engagement work.

Following from the initial Global-NAMRIP pump priming, these activities were developed with the support of the ESRC, the University of Southampton’s Public Engagement with Research Unit and the National Biofilms Innovation Centre.

Getting into the neighbouring mindset...
Getting into the neighbouring mindset...
If we think this way re human neighbours, how do we think re microbes?
If we think this way re human neighbors, how do we think re microbes?
Microbial neighbours on our bodies and our food
Microbial neighbours on our bodies and our food
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