Doctors use antibiotics to prevent and treat bacterial infections. These drugs have saved many lives for decades.
But sometimes bacteria mutate and the antibiotics that used to kill them don't work as well — or at all. When they no longer work well, bacterial infections can become more dangerous and spread.
The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today.
Call the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases to learn more or make an appointment at 412-647-7228 or 1-877-788-7228.
Antibiotic resistance means that drugs made to kill bacteria or slow their growth no longer work as they should.
Without effective antibiotics, it becomes harder to treat infections like:
Even simple skin infections can be a problem when bacteria that cause them resist antibiotics.
The CDC reports that more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year and cause over 35,000.
Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, socioeconomic status, or health problems.
Note that your body doesn't become resistant to antibiotics — the bacteria do.
These antibiotic-resistant bacteria can travel from person to person. They can even be on surfaces (like a shopping cart handle) or in food that isn't properly prepared.
Reasons for antibiotic resistance include:
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread to other people just like any other bacteria. That's why antibiotic resistance is common in health care settings.
Older people are at greater risk.
Other risk factors for antibiotic resistance include:
If commonly prescribed antibiotics no longer work, doctors can test the bacteria to see which antibiotics (if any) still work against it.
Complications from antibiotic resistance include:
To help prevent antibiotic resistance:
To help prevent a bacterial infection from happening in the first place:
A bacterial infection can affect almost any system of the body and cause symptoms such as:
Your symptoms will be the same whether the bacteria that caused the infection is resistant to antibiotics or not.
If you do not feel better after taking your prescribed course, you may have an antibiotic-resistant infection. You should call your doctor if that is the case.
Your doctor may diagnose antibiotic resistance with:
Your doctor will send samples to a lab.
Lab workers will expose the bacteria in the sample to various antibiotics. If the bacteria keep growing despite exposure, it means they're resistant to that antibiotic.
UPMC is at the forefront of antibiotic resistance research. But antibiotic-resistant infections can be tough — and sometimes impossible — to treat.
If your infection isn't responding to antibiotics, your doctor may prescribe a different, stronger one. But sometimes there isn't another option.
That's why preventing antibiotic resistance is so vital.
To learn more about the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases or to make an appointment, call 412-647-7228 or 1-877-788-7228.