What Is Antibiotic Resistance?
What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance happens when an antibiotic loses its ability to effectively control or kill bacteria. The bacteria become "resistant" and continue to grow because the antibiotic being administered has no ability to kill them. The World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many other public health experts agree that we may soon be living in a world where antibiotics are no longer a match for drug-resistant bacteria, often called superbugs.
Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Who is at risk of antibiotic-resistant infections?
Everyone is at risk of antibiotic-resistant infections, but those at highest risk include patients who receive specialized care such as organ/bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy, complex surgeries and joint replacements, dialysis, as well as the elderly, children and premature infants and soldiers and veterans.
What are some consequences of antibiotic resistance?
The public health consequences of losing antibiotics are almost incomprehensible. Standard medical procedures would become extremely risky and even a simple cut could kill. In many cases, antibiotic-resistant infections lead to prolonged and/or costlier medical treatments; extended hospital or rehabilitation stays; additional doctor visits; and greater disability and death compared with infections that are easily treatable with antibiotics.
The annual costs of antibiotic-resistant infections in the U.S. range as high as $20 billion in direct healthcare costs, with additional costs to society for lost productivity as high as $35 billion a year.
Why should I be concerned about antibiotic use in food animals?
All uses of antibiotics contribute to the antibiotic resistance crisis we face. According to the most recent publicly available data, more than 35 million pounds of antibiotics are sold for use in food animal production every single year in the U.S. compared to 7 million pounds in human medicine.
The majority of the drugs used on industrial farms are to compensate for overcrowding and dirty living conditions, not to treat sick animals. Dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread from farms to people through direct contact with animals, farm runoff into waterways and on contaminated meat and poultry products.