CDC staff show two plates growing bacteria in the presence of discs containing various antibiotics. The isolate on the left plate is susceptible to the antibiotics on the discs and is therefore unable to grow around the discs. The one on the right has a CRE that is resistant to all of the antibiotics tested and is able to grow near the disks.
Antibiotics and similar drugs have been used since the 1940s, and have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases.
However, these medications have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective.
What antibiotics can and cannot do
Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections.
Get smart about when antibiotics are needed — to fight bacterial infections. When you use antibiotics appropriately, you do the best for your health, your family’s health, and the health of those around you.
Taking antibiotics for viral infections, such as colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus or ear infections:
Will not cure the infection
Will not keep other people from getting sick
Will not help you or your child feel better
May cause unnecessary and harmful side effects
May contribute to antibiotic resistance, which is when bacteria are able to resist the effects of an antibiotic and continue to cause harm
Rest, fluids, and over-the-counter products may be your or your child’s best treatment option against viral infections.
Use antibiotics wisely
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria or other microbes to resist the effects of an antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply — causing more harm.
Untreatable: Today’s drug-resistant health threats
Every year, more than two million people in the United States get infections that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The report, “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013,” presented a first-ever snapshot of the burden and threats posed by the antibiotic-resistant germs that have the most impact on human health. This report was also the first time that CDC has ranked these threats into categories of urgent, serious, and concerning.
In addition to the illness and deaths caused by resistant bacteria, the report found that C. difficile, a serious diarrheal infection usually associated with antibiotic use, causes at least 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths every year.
The loss of effective antibiotic treatments will not only cripple the ability to fight routine infectious diseases but will also undermine treatment of infectious complications in patients with other diseases. Many advances in medical treatment, such as joint replacements, organ transplants, and cancer therapies, are dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics. If the ability to effectively treat those infections is lost, the ability to safely offer people many of the life-saving and life-improving modern medical advances will be lost with it.
The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine. However, up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary or inappropriate.