General Background. What is Antibiotic Resistance and Why is it a Problem? About Resistance. What Can Be Done. Antibiotic resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow.
Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require extended hospital stays, additional follow-up doctor visits, and costly and toxic alternatives.
Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it is that bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them. Each year in the U. No one can completely avoid the risk of resistant infections, but some people are at greater risk than others for example, people with chronic illnesses.
If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections and control public health threats. To manage resistant bacteria, first they need to be identified in individuals, healthcare facilities, and the food supply. There are a variety of laboratory tests used for identifying resistant bacteria.
These include:. The development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria is a natural process that can't be stopped. However, it can be slowed. Resistance is currently developing at an alarming rate because of inappropriate and unnecessary antibiotic use.
Inappropriate use in healthcare settings includes using antibiotics when they are not needed for treatment, prescribing the wrong type of antibiotic for treatment, and prescribing antibiotics for an inappropriate duration. According to the CDC, an antibiotic prescription is inappropriate half the time.
For instance, antibiotics do not resolve viral infections such as the common cold, influenza flu , most bronchitis, most sore throats, and the majority of sinus infections. However, unnecessary antibiotic use for these viral infections is still widespread. In food animals, antibiotics are sometimes added to livestock food and water to promote growth and prevent disease. More than half of antibiotics currently made are used to enhance livestock growth. This contributes to bacteria becoming resistant to drugs important for human health. They classified resistance threats as urgent , serious , and concerning.
Urgent and serious threats require more aggressive monitoring and prevention, while concerning threats require monitoring and response to occasional outbreaks. Concerning threats have a lower risk of occurring, or there are more therapies remaining for those infections. Some key examples from each threat level category follow below. Aggressive action is necessary to slow the development of new resistance in bacteria and to prevent existing resistance from spreading. These actions can occur at multiple sources, from individuals seeking treatment and their healthcare practitioners, to health departments, healthcare facilities, regional laboratories, and government agencies.
The following sections explain what is being done to combat antibiotic resistance and how you can help. Preventing infections reduces the need to use antibiotics and the chances that resistance will develop. Infections can be prevented through immunization , safe food handling, frequent and thorough hand washing, good disinfection practices in healthcare settings, and using antibiotics as prescribed to prevent reinfection.
Surveillance for emerging and existing antibiotic resistant bacteria is an important step in developing strategies to combat such bacteria. The CDC sponsors a number of surveillance programs to track resistant bacteria. For example, the National Healthcare Safety Network allows healthcare facilities to electronically report infections, antibiotic use, and resistance.
The CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Lab Network provides support for rapid detection and confirmation of emerging antimicrobial resistance threats through laboratory infrastructure throughout the U. Clinical microbiology laboratories, commercial laboratories, and state public health laboratories are all involved in surveillance and detection efforts. Changing how antibiotics are used may be the single most important action to combat resistance, according to the CDC. Using antibiotics only when necessary and appropriate in people and animals is known as antibiotic stewardship. Many healthcare facilities have stewardship programs to guide best practices for antibiotic use.
These stewardship practices include only prescribing antibiotics when needed, choosing proper drugs, and choosing appropriate doses and durations. Stewardship programs have been shown to improve care, shorten hospital stays, and reduce pharmacy costs at healthcare facilities. When a patient is seriously ill and healthcare practitioners don't have a diagnosis for an infection, they may administer multiple antibiotics until they find the best one for treatment, or simply prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic s.
This may harm the individual's good bacteria normal flora and creates selective pressure that contributes to resistance. Accurate diagnosis is an important step towards appropriate antibiotic use. Typically, matching an unknown infection to an antibiotic is done by culturing bacteria to identify them, then exposing the microbes to different antibiotics to learn which therapy works best. Results from these susceptibility tests usually take hours, though some can take weeks.
These wait times can hinder appropriate antibiotic use. Fortunately, new techniques that can detect bacteria independent of culture known as "culture independent diagnostic tests" or CIDTs , such as real time molecular testing, are removing some of those barriers to appropriate antibiotic use. Growing concern about antibiotic resistance has spurred new drug development.
Between and , the FDA approved five new antibiotics for clinical use. Between and , the agency approved eight new therapeutic agents.
The FDA is trying to make antibiotic development and approval more efficient so new treatment options are available for infections. While bacterial resistance is an alarming global problem, there are many solutions for slowing its spread and development. Everyone has a role to play in this fight, even by taking simple actions such as hand washing and avoiding unnecessary treatment with antibiotics.
These resources will help you learn more about how you can help combat antibiotic resistance in bacteria:. Antibiotic Resistance. Accessed May 30, Revised April Facts About Antibiotic Resistance. Infectious Diseases Society of America. Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
General Background: About Antibiotic Resistance. Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics. Stop the Spread of Superbugs. NIH News in Health. Ventola, L. Pharmacy and Therapeutics. Updated March 3. Making Health Care Safer. Deak, D.
A Review of U. Food and Drug Administration—Approved Antibiotics, — Annals of Internal Medicine. Martens and Demain. The Journal of Antibiotics.
Updated April National Strategy to Combat Antibiotic Resistance. Updated September Updated December Antibiotic Resistance from Farm to Table. Microbiology Society. Different Types of Antibiotics and Their Applications. Omics International. Rifai, N. Preventing Antibiotic Resistant Infections.
NYU Langone Health.
Updated January 8. Combating Antibiotic Resistance. Food and Drug Administration. Updated January Activities to Combat AR. World Health Organization.