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In many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), a poor link between antibiotic policies and practices exists. Numerous contextual factors may influence the degree of antibiotic access, appropriateness of antibiotic provision, and actual use in communities. Therefore, improving appropriateness of antibiotic use in different communities in LMICs probably requires interventions tailored to the setting of interest, accounting for cultural context. Here we present the ABACUS study (AntiBiotic ACcess and USe), which employs a unique approach and infrastructure, enabling quantitative validation, contextualization of determinants, and cross-continent comparisons of antibiotic access and use. The community infrastructure for this study is the INDEPTH-Network (International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health in Developing Countries), which facilitates health and population research through an established health and demographic surveillance system. After an initial round of formative qualitative research with community members and antibiotic suppliers in three African and three Asian countries, household surveys will assess the appropriateness of antibiotic access, provision and use. Results from this sample will be validated against a systematically conducted inventory of suppliers. All potential antibiotic suppliers will be mapped and characterized. Subsequently, their supply of antibiotics to the community will be measured through customer exit interviews, which tend to be more reliable than bulk purchase or sales data. Discrepancies identified between reported and observed antibiotic practices will be investigated in further qualitative interviews. Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach will be employed to identify the conversion factors that determine whether or not, and the extent to which appropriate provision of antibiotics may lead to appropriate access and use of antibiotics. Currently, the study is ongoing and expected to conclude by 2019. ABACUS will provide important new insights into antibiotic practices in LMICs to inform social interventions aimed at promoting optimal antibiotic use, thereby preserving antibiotic effectiveness.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





58 - 58