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Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist or overcome the effects of an antibiotic. The bacteria survive, despite treatment, continue to multiply and cause illness. Infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics can be difficult or even impossible to cure. Antibiotic-resistant organisms can cause illness that can lead to serious disease 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. Therefore, it is important to use antibiotics only when they are truly needed.

A person with an infection that is resistant to antibiotics can pass resistant bacteria 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 CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most urgent public health threats. If antibiotics are no longer effective, then we are no longer able to control or cure infections.

For information about the three multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) that are newly reportable in Wisconsin as of July 1, 2022 (carbapenemase-producing carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, carbapenemase-producing carbapenem-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Candida auris), see the Reportable Multidrug-Resistant Organisms webpage.


Last revised December 1, 2023