Antibiotic resistance means that some antibiotics that used to work well for some infections, do not work anymore. It's a big problem.
There are now strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. They're known as 'superbugs'.
A few things cause antibiotic resistance. They include the overuse of antibiotics. This is why antibiotics are no longer used to treat some viral infections, such as chest and ear infections.
Never take antibiotics when you do not need them
The more you use antibiotics to treat minor conditions, the more likely they will not work as well for more serious conditions.
Causes of antibiotics resistance
Antibiotic resistance is caused by:
- overuse of antibiotics - some antibiotics don't work anymore for some infections
- bacteria growing, changing and spreading very fast - some antibiotics no longer work well for some infections
- antibiotics killing our 'good' bacteria as well as our 'bad' bacteria - this means superbugs can grow and take over
Superbugs and antibiotic resistance
Superbugs are strains of bacteria that have developed resistance to many different types of antibiotics.
They are becoming an increasing cause of disability and death across the world.
The spread of superbugs is a problem because:
- they spread easily to others - in particular to people taking antibiotics
- it can be hard to find a safe and effective antibiotic to fight a superbug infection
- there is a risk that new superbugs may emerge that cannot be treated by any existing antibiotics
How to slow antibiotic resistance
We can help to slow down antibiotic resistance by:
- not asking for antibiotics to treat viral infections, including colds and flu
- taking antibiotic doses as prescribed and only when you need them
- cleaning your hands regularly and keeping toilets clean, this makes it harder for superbugs to spread
Using antibiotics in the right way will help them remain effective.
This content was fact checked by a pharmacist, a GP and the National Medication Safety Programme (Safermeds).