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Bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them. This means that some common antibiotics no longer work as well as they used to.

Antibiotics are important. They help treat bacterial infections in humans and animals.


Antibiotics have been overused in recent years. This means that some of them don't work for certain infections anymore.

Also, some bacteria have changed. This means some antibiotics that were used to treat them no longer work very well.

These antibiotic-resistant bacteria are often called 'superbugs'. MRSA and CPE are two kinds of superbug that can cause problems.

Patient health risks

The spread of superbugs is a problem in Ireland and many other countries.

This is because:

  • superbugs can spread easily to others - they spread even more easily to people taking antibiotics
  • if a superbug causes an infection, it can be hard to find a safe and effective antibiotic to fight it
  • few new antibiotics are being developed - as superbugs get more resistant, there is a risk that we start to see superbugs we can't treat


Causes of antibiotic resistance

  • Bacteria grow very fast, change very fast and spread very fast.
  • Antibiotics kill our 'good' bacteria as well as our 'bad' bacteria. This allows superbugs to grow and take over.

Control antibiotic resistance

We need to use antibiotics in the right way to slow down antibiotic resistance. This will help them remain effective for us and future generations.

Help prevent 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

Taking antibiotics when we don't need them puts us at risk of skin rash, diarrhoea and other side effects. If we don't need antibiotics, we are better off without them.

Related topic

Under the weather - common illnesses

page last reviewed: 22/11/2019
next review due: 22/11/2022