General Information about Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work 

What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobials or antimicrobial drugs, are drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics kill specific bacteria. When used correctly, antibiotics are very important medicines.

Not all infections are caused by bacteria. Viruses are also important causes of infections. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like the common cold or flu. Your health provider must diagnose the infection to decide if an antibiotic is necessary, and if so, which one is appropriate to use.

What are antibiotic-resistant bacteria?
Some bacteria can defend themselves against antibiotics. These bacteria are referred to as antibiotic-resistant. Because of these resistant bacteria, some infectious diseases are becoming more difficult to treat.
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Each time we take an antibiotic, bacteria are killed, but resistant ones may be left to grow and multiply. Resistant bacteria do not respond to the antibiotics and continue to cause infection.
The overuse and misuse of antibiotics increase the growth and spread of these resistant bacteria.

How do we detect or test for antibiotic-resistant bacteria?
Your health provider can order laboratory tests to determine the cause of infection. However, laboratory tests are not always necessary to make a diagnosis and decide on the best treatment. Among the tests that can help identify the cause of infection is the "culture" test such as blood, throat, and urine culture. This test essentially uses a series of procedures that allow certain bacteria to be "grown," identified, and tested for susceptibility to a standard panel of antibiotics. Results of susceptibility testing will determine if the bacteria are "susceptible" or "resistant."

Where (what type of setting) can we find infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria?
Like infections caused by bacteria that are susceptible to antibiotics, those caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are identified in the hospital, nursing home, outpatient, and other health-care venues. However, some infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are typically seen among patients confined in the hospital or other health facility, often referred to as hospital-acquired or healthcare-associated.

How can we prevent antibiotic resistance?

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about the best treatment for your illness.
  • You should only use antibiotics that are prescribed to you by a healthcare provider; always follow the instructions on the label and properly dispose of any leftover medication.
  • Do not share your antibiotics with anyone, not even a family member.
  • Properly dispose leftover and expired antibiotics. For information visit:  OR
  • Clean your hands often (e.g., before meals and after touching pets).
  • Keep you and your child current with recommended appropriate antibiotic use.

How do I treat a viral infection (cold or flu)?

To feel better when you have an upper respiratory infection and antibiotics are not needed…

  • Increase fluid intake
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Use a cool mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray to relieve congestion
  • Soothe throat with ice chips, sore throat spray, or lozenges (do not give lozenges to young children)

Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance

Communicable Disease

Public Health