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U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Antibiotic Resistance

A Growing Threat

Disease-causing microbes that have become resistant to drug therapy are an increasing public health problem. Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria, and childhood ear infections are just a few of the diseases that have become hard to treat with antibiotic drugs. Part of the problem is that bacteria and other microorganisms that cause infections are remarkably resilient and can develop ways to survive drugs meant to kill or weaken them. This antibiotic resistance, also known as antimicrobial resistance or drug resistance, is due largely to the increasing use of antibiotics. Other facts:

  • Though food-producing animals are given antibiotic drugs for important therapeutic, disease prevention or production reasons, these drugs can cause microbes to become resistant to drugs used to treat human illness, ultimately making some human sicknesses harder to treat.
  • About 70 percent of bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one of the drugs most commonly used to treat infections.
  • Some organisms are resistant to all approved antibiotics and must be treated with experimental and potentially toxic drugs.
  • Some research has shown that antibiotics are given to patients more often than guidelines set by federal and other healthcare organizations recommend. For example, patients sometimes ask their doctors for antibiotics for a cold, cough, or the flu, all of which are viral and don't respond to antibiotics. Also, patients who are prescribed antibiotics but don't take the full dosing regimen can contribute to resistance.
  • Unless antibiotic resistance problems are detected as they emerge, and actions are taken to contain them, the world could be faced with previously treatable diseases that have again become untreatable, as in the days before antibiotics were developed.

General Background

"The Battle of the Bugs: Fighting Antibiotic Resistance" (FDA Consumer article)

FDA Publishes Final Rule to Require Labeling About Antibiotic Resistance (FDA Press Release)

HHS, Public Health Partners Unveil New Campaign to Promote Awareness of Proper Antibiotic Use (DHHS Release, Sept. 17, 2003)

"Antibiotic Resistance from Down on the Farm" (FDA Consumer article)

"Miracle Drugs vs. Superbugs" (FDA Consumer article)

Antibiotic resistance fact sheet (National Institutes of Health)

Drug information (FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research)

Prevention tips for Consumers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Questions and answers (CDC)

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (Washington state health dept.)**

When the Antibiotics Quit Working... (University of Wisconsin)**

Veterinary/Industry Information

FDA Outlines New Approach To Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance from Use of Animal Drugs (Oct. 23, 2003)

"Human Health Impact and Regulatory Issues Involving Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Animal Production Environment"
(FDA National Center for Toxicological Research)

FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine antibiotic resistance information

Antibiotic resistance monitoring (NARMS--National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System)


What's New

Animated Video: Antibiotic Resistance

"Antibiotics: Preserve a Treasure" (brochure)
(PDF Version)


FDA Antimicrobial Resistance Task Force --Conclusions: HTML PDF

Public Health Action Plan--Full report Press release

CDC recommendations

Addressing the Antibiotic Resistance Problem (CDC)

Project ICARE (Intensive
Care Antimicrobial Resistance

Emerging Antibiotic Resistance: 2000 and Beyond (University of Florida)**

CDC site for NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System)

(**Note: FDA is not responsible for the content of Web pages found at these links, which are provided solely for information. These links do not imply an endorsement of these organizations by FDA or the federal government.)


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