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Fast Facts

Español: Datos breves

Facts about Antibiotic Resistance

  • Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.
  • Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant ones may be left to grow and multiply.
  • Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are the primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria.
  • Overuse and misuse of antibiotics threatens the usefulness of these important drugs. Decreasing inappropriate antibiotic use is a key strategy to control antibiotic resistance.
  • Antibiotic resistance in children is of particular concern because they have the highest rates of antibiotic use and often have fewer antibiotic choices since some antibiotics cannot be safely given to children.
  • Antibiotic resistance can cause significant suffering for people who have common infections that once were easily treatable with antibiotics.
  • When antibiotics do not work, infections often last longer, cause more severe illness, require more doctor visits or extended hospital stays, and involve more expensive and toxic medications. Some resistant infections can even cause death.

Antibiotic resistance threats report image

The Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States, 2013 report gives a first-ever snapshot of the burden and threats posed by the antibiotic-resistant germs having the most impact on human health. Read the report.

Antibiotic Prescribing: Attitudes, Behaviors, Trends and Cost

  • It is estimated that over half of antibiotics prescribed for patients who visit a clinic in the United States are inappropriate. These patients are most commonly seeking care for acute respiratory infections that are caused by viruses (1).
  • The number of antibiotic prescriptions written for ear infections in children has decreased in recent years and may have recently reached a plateau (2).
  • More children are getting the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which has reduced the number of ear infections we are seeing in the United States (3).
  • Antibiotics cause 1 out of 5 emergency department visits for adverse drug events (ADEs) (4). Antibiotics are the most frequent cause of ADEs in children (5). Seven of the top 15 drugs involved in ADEs are antibiotics (6).
  • We spent $10.7 billion on antibiotics in the United States in 2009, including $6.5 billion among patients who visit physician offices and $3.5 billion among hospitalized patients (7).
  • One study found antibiotics are prescribed to children with private insurance much more frequently and costs up to 5 times more money for children in the United States compared to the United Kingdom (8).


  1. Shapiro DJ, Hicks LA, Pavia AT, Hersh AL. Antibiotic prescribing for adults in ambulatory care in the USA, 2007-09. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2014;69(1):234-40.
  2. Vaz LE, Kleinman KP, Raebel MA, Nordin JD, Lakoma MD, Dutta-Linn MM, Finkelstein JA. Recent trends in outpatient antibiotic use in children. Pediatrics. 2014;133(3):375-85.
  3. Grijalva CG, Nuorti JP, Griffin MR. Antibiotic prescription rates for acute respiratory tract infections in US ambulatory settings. JAMA. 2009;302(7):758-66.
  4. Shehab N, Patel PR, Srinivasan A, Budnitz DS. Emergency department visits for antibiotic-associated adverse events. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;47(6):735-43.
  5. Bourgeois FT, Mandl KD, Valim C, Shannon MW. Pediatric adverse drug events in the outpatient setting: An 11-year national analysis. Pediatrics. 2009;124(4):e744-50.
  6. Budnitz DS, Pollock DA, Weidenbach KN, Mendelsohn AB, Schroeder TJ, Annest JL. National surveillance of emergency department visits for outpatient adverse drug events. JAMA. 2006;296(15):1858-66.
  7. Suda KJ, Hicks LA, Roberts RM, Hunkler RJ, Danziger LH. A national evaluation of antibiotic expenditures by healthcare setting in the United States, 2009. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2013;68(3):715-18.
  8. Jick H, Wilson A, Chamberlin D. Comparison of prescription drug costs in the United States and the United Kingdom, Part 4: Antibiotics in young children. Pharmacotherapy. 2014;34(4):324-29.