Antibiotic Resistance

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 that 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 (CDC).

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

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: June 22, 2022