Where Resistance Spreads: Your Community

Medical professional with young female patient

Germs are part of everyday life. Many germs do not cause harm and some even help us stay healthy. Only a small portion of germs are known to cause infection. Unfortunately, there have been rising antibiotic-resistant infections in U.S. communities.

CDC is concerned about antibiotic-resistant germs in the community for several reasons.

  • Community-associated infections can happen to healthy people who have not had a recent interaction with health care (healthcare-associated germs tend to impact sicker, more vulnerable people while they receive care)
  • Infections in the community can be difficult to identify and control spread
  • New forms of resistance can emerge and spread quickly, especially resistance shared among germs through mobile genetic elements
  • Antibiotic-resistant germs can share their resistance genes with other germs, making them more difficult to treat

We can slow the spread of resistant threats in the community using simple interventions, such as good hygiene, routine vaccination, safer sex practices, and safe food preparation. Many of these interventions have already proven successful. Learn more about steps everyone can take to reduce your risk of getting an infection.

How Germs Can Spread in Community

Germs, including resistant germs, can spread between people, animals, and food, through common activities. For example, germs can spread from food to people and between people and animals without appropriate hand hygiene. People can also get an infection when traveling, then spread these germs when they return. Other examples include gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that has progressively developed resistance to almost every drug ever used to treat it. Infections associated with drug-resistant gonorrhea and group A Streptococcus, the most common cause of sore throat, have both increased since 2000.

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Everything is Connected: Community & the Environment

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About Antibiotic Use in Communities

Antibiotics are valuable tools. Yet any antibiotic use—for people, animals, or plants—can cause side effects and contribute to antibiotic resistance.

In U.S. outpatient doctors’ offices and emergency departments, at least 28% of antibiotic courses prescribed each year are unnecessary. In U.S. outpatient doctors’ offices specifically, 1 out of every 3 antibiotic prescribed is unnecessary. That’s 47 million unnecessary prescriptions, each of which carries the potential for side effects, allergic reactions and Clostridioides difficile infections, which can cause deadly diarrhea.

In the community, reactions from antibiotics often require emergency treatment. In fact, reactions from antibiotics cause 1 out of 5 medication-related visits to the ER. In children, reactions from antibiotics are the most common cause of medication-related ER visits.

Misuse or mismanagement of antibiotics can also contribute to resistance. For example, people with tuberculosis (TB)—a disease caused by bacteria that are spread from person to person through the air—can die if they do not get proper treatment. Drug-resistant TB can occur when the drugs used to treat TB are misused or mismanaged.

Clinicians should prescribe their patients antibiotics only when the benefits outweigh the potential risks. Improving antibiotic prescribing and use is critical to effectively treat infections, protect patients from harms caused by unnecessary antibiotic use, and combat antibiotic resistance. Veterinarians should also help improve antibiotic use when prescribing these drugs.

Learn More: Other Places Resistance Spreads