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.

General Information and Resources

Antibiotic resistant organisms

MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus
CRAB – carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, P-02538b (PDF)

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 Care Professionals

Antibiotic resistant organisms

2007 Wisconsin Antibiotic Resistance Report - Invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae, P-00769-2007 (PDF)
2006 Wisconsin Antibiotic Resistance Report - Invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae, P-00769-2006 (PDF)

Carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (CRAB) for Hospitals, P-02538 (PDF)
Carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (CRAB) for Long-term Care, P-02538a (PDF)

Wisconsin Department of Health Services – Antimicrobial Stewardship

For more information, contact:
Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI) Prevention Program
Division of Public Health
Bureau of Communicable Diseases
Phone 608-267-7711
Fax 608-261-4976

Invasive bacteria home | HAI prevention home

Questions about Antibiotic Resistance? Contact us!
Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-4976

Last Revised: July 29, 2021