Antibiotics and similar drugs, together called antimicrobial agents, have been used for over 70 years to treat people who have infectious diseases. Since the 1940s, antibiotic use has changed medical care and public health by decreasing the amount of illness and death from infectious diseases. When prescribed and taken correctly, antibiotics are of great value.
Over years of use, bacteria have adapted to the antibiotics developed to kill them, making the drugs less effective. Antibiotic resistance means that the bacteria are able to resist the effects of an antibiotic so the antibiotic will no longer prevent or cure the infection. Some bacteria have developed resistance to a single antibiotic or related class of antibiotics. Others have developed resistance to several antibiotics or classes; these organisms are often referred to as multidrug-resistant, or MDR, strains. In some cases, the microorganisms have become so resistant that no available antibiotics are effective against them.
How much do you know about antibiotics? Take this quiz to find out!
How Does the Use of Antibiotics Lead to Antibiotic Resistance?
How Antibiotic Resistance Happens
- Lots of germs. A few are drug resistant.
- Antibiotics kill bacteria causing the illness, as well as good bacteria protecting the body from infection.
- The drug-resistant bacteria are now allowed to grow and take over.
- Some bacteria give their drug-resistance to other bacteria, causing more problems.
There are several ways that bacteria and other microorganisms can become resistant to drugs; one is the use of antibiotics. Every time a person takes antibiotics, the susceptible bacteria are killed, but some bacteria are resistant to the antibiotics and survive. Those that survive multiply and take over. This is an example of natural selection or "survival of the fittest." Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria. If antibiotics were not killing the susceptible bacteria, the resistant bacteria would not have the selective advantage to survive and might even die off.
To learn about the other ways that antibiotic resistance occurs, see the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine's nine-minute video explaining how antimicrobial resistance both emerges and proliferates among bacteria.
To learn which organisms are associated with antimicrobial resistance, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s website on diseases and pathogens associated with antimicrobial resistance.
Six Smart Facts About Antibiotic Use
- Antibiotics are LIFE-SAVING drugs.
- Antibiotics only treat BACTERIAL infections.
- Some ear infections DO NOT require an antibiotic.
- Most sore throats DO NOT require an antibiotic.
- Green colored mucus is NOT a sign that an antibiotic is needed.
- There are potential RISKS when taking any prescription drug.
Talk to your clinician about when and how to safely use antibiotics. Learn more about the “Do’s and Don’ts” of antibiotic use by clicking here.
CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2019 (2019 AR Threats Report) includes the latest national death and infection estimates that underscore the continued threat of antibiotic resistance in the U.S.
November 19, 2019
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) commits to addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through improved detection, response, and containment of antimicrobial threats, and promotion of appropriate antibiotic use in Ohio.
October 16, 2019
Ohio Department of Health
Bureau of Infectious Diseases
246 N. High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Phone: (614) 995-5599
Fax: (614) 387-2132
Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.