About Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow.

Antimicrobial resistance is an urgent global public health threat, killing at least 1.27 million people worldwide and associated with nearly 5 million deaths in 2019. In the U.S., more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur each year. More than 35,000 people die as a result, according to CDC’s 2019 Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Threats Report. When Clostridioides difficile—a bacterium that is not typically resistant but can cause deadly diarrhea and is associated with antimicrobial use—is added to these, the U.S. toll of all the threats in the report exceeds 3 million infections and 48,000 deaths.

Antimicrobial resistance has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, as well as the healthcare, veterinary, and agriculture industries. This makes it one of the world’s most urgent public health problems.

Bacteria and fungi do not have to be resistant to every antibiotic or antifungal to be dangerous. Resistance to even one antibiotic can mean serious problems. For example:

  • Antimicrobial-resistant infections that require the use of second- and third-line treatments can harm patients by causing serious side effects, such as organ failure, and prolong care and recovery, sometimes for months
  • Many medical advances are dependent on the ability to fight infections using antibiotics, including joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and the treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • In some cases, these infections have no treatment options

If antibiotics and antifungals lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections and control these public health threats.