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What is Antibiotic Resistance?

What is an antibiotic?

  • An antibiotic is a substance used to kill bacteria.
  • Say for instance, our guts are full of bacteria. Some are good, and some are bad. Once someone takes an antibiotic, it clears the gut of most bacteria, including the good kind. But some resistant bacteria remain and develop resistance to the antibiotic over time.
  • Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses, which means an antibiotic prescription for a cold or the flu isn’t going to do any good.

Antibiotic resistance

  • Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections.
  • The bacteria survive and continue to multiply, causing more harm.
  • Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality.
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
  • Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
  • A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.
  • Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.

Scope of the Problem:

  • Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world.
  • New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases.
  • A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.
  • Antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public.
  • Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.

Prevention and control of the problem:

  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
  • Never demand antibiotics if your doctor says you don’t need them.
  • Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
  • Ensure a robust national action plan to tackle antibiotic resistance is in place.
  • Improve surveillance of antibiotic-resistant infections.
  • Strengthen policies, programmes, and implementation of infection prevention and control measures.
  • Prevent infections by ensuring your hands, instruments, and environment is clean.
  • Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are needed, according to current guidelines.
  • Report antibiotic-resistant infections to surveillance teams.
  • Talk to your patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance and the dangers of misuse.
  • Invest in research and development of new antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics and other tools.
  • Only give antibiotics to animals under veterinary supervision.
  • Not use antibiotics for growth promotion or to prevent diseases.
  • Vaccinate animals to reduce the need for antibiotics and use alternatives to antibiotics when available.

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