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Communicable  Diseases Subjects A-Z



Sexually Transmitted Diseases


Disease Reporting

Antibiotic resistance

(Antimicrobial resistance)

General information

Antibiotic (antimicrobial) resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist or overcome the effects of an antibiotic. The bacteria survive, despite treatment, and continue to multiply and cause illness. Infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to many drugs can be difficult or even impossible to cure. Antibiotic resistant organisms can cause illness which can lead to serious disability or even death. Over the last decade, many types of bacteria have become less responsive to antibiotic treatment.

Antibiotic resistance has been an increasing problem worldwide, particularly in areas where antibiotics are misused or inappropriately prescribed. Bacteria can become resistant when they mutate or acquire the genes of other resistant bacteria. Antibiotics can enhance bacterial resistance by killing susceptible bacteria and leaving the resistant strains to spread and multiply.

A person with an infection that is resistant to antibiotics can then pass that resistant infection to another person.. These antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread to family members, schoolmates, and co-workers. For this reason, antibiotic resistance is among the top concerns for scientists and health care practitioners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Antibiotic resistance can cause significant illness and suffering even for common infections that were once easily treatable with antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistant organisms

MRSA - methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus 
CRE - Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae

The best ways to prevent antibiotic resistant infections are:

  • Only use antibiotics when needed. Don't take an antibiotic for a cold, cough or influenza. These illnesses, along with most bronchitis and sore throats are viral and will not be cured by an antibiotic. Antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viruses. 

  • When prescribed, take the antibiotic exactly as directed. Do not skip a dose, and complete the entire course, even if you feel better. Not taking all of the prescribed antibiotics could result in bacteria that survive and go on to re-infect and possibly develop resistance. 

  • Parents should ensure that their children take the entire course of antibiotic, even after symptoms are gone. 

  • Do not save antibiotics for later use. They may not be as effective over time and different illnesses may need different antibiotics.

  • Do not take someone else's antibiotics. The antibiotic may not work for your illness and may delay or interfere with the correct treatment, prolonging the illness. 

  • A patient or parent should not demand an antibiotic when a health care provider has determined it is not necessary.

Information for health professionals

Prevention and Control guidelines Antibiotic Resistant Organisms (ARO) in Healthcare Settings

2007 WI Antibiotic resistance report - Invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae
2006 WI Antibiotic resistance report - Invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae

Invasive bacteria home

HAI prevention home


Wisconsin Local Health Departments - Regional offices - Tribal agencies

Susann Ahrabi-Fard, Epidemiologist
Wisconsin Division of Public Health 
Bureau of Communicable Diseases
(Phone 608-261-6955)  (Fax 608-261-4976)

Last Revised: September 08, 2014