Antibiotic Resistance: A Global Threat

Originally Posted as a CDC Feature on: September 2018

People lifting a globe. Antibiotic resistance is a global threat.

Antibiotic resistance requires a collaborative approach across countries to detect, prevent, and respond to these threats. Global leaders are joining CDC’s AMR Challenge by committing to action across healthcare, food, communities, and the environment (soil and water) to accelerate the fight.

Antibiotic resistance, when germs (i.e., bacteria, fungi) develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them, is a top threat to the public’s health and a priority across the globe. In the U.S. alone, it causes more than 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths per year. Worldwide, antibiotic resistance threatens our progress in healthcare, food production, and ultimately life expectancy.

Antibiotic resistance has been found in all regions of the world. Modern travel of people, animals, and goods means antibiotic resistance can easily spread across borders and continents. Collaborative, coordinated efforts will help slow the development and spread of antibiotic resistance and protect people.

Vietnam: An Example of CDC's Global Antibiotic Resistance Efforts

In Vietnam, CDC, partners like the Ministry of Health, and local experts are working to establish a national surveillance system, which provides structure to track antibiotic resistance, guide prevention strategies, and report results at the local and global level. The system is currently implemented in 16 laboratories across Vietnam and allows the country to detect resistant bacteria where they start, before they spread. Vietnam has made fighting antibiotic resistance a national priority.

In 2013, Vietnam became the first country in the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Region to approve a national action plan to combat antibiotic resistance. Increasing capacity to track antibiotic resistance will strengthen Vietnam’s ability to improve response to resistant infections, and improve patient safety in the country.

CDC Collaborates to Support Global Action

Through CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative, the agency collaborates with countries throughout the world to improve antibiotic use, track resistance, and implement infection prevention and control activities in healthcare settings, where antibiotic resistance can emerge and amplify the spread.

CDC shares expertise and deploys experts to investigate and contain resistance outbreaks, and assists other countries as they:

  • Implement infection prevention and control programs, and antibiotic stewardship programs in healthcare settings
  • Establish or strengthen national tracking systems to respond rapidly to outbreaks, identify emerging pathogens, and track trends
  • Enhance laboratory capacity to detect and report resistance
  • Develop and implement national action plans to address the threat of antibiotic resistance

Progress Made, but More Work Needed

Germs will inevitably find ways to resist antibiotics, which is why aggressive action is needed. In September 2018, the U.S. is launching the AMR Challenge at a United Nations General Assembly side event to accelerate the fight against antibiotic resistance.

The AMR Challenge is a year-long effort for governments, private industries, and non-governmental organizations worldwide to make formal commitments that further progress against antibiotic resistance. The AMR Challenge includes five commitment areas: tracking and data; infection prevention and control; antibiotic use; sanitation and environment; and vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, as well as the healthcare, veterinary, and agriculture industries. We all have a role to play in fighting antibiotic resistance. Find out how you can help.