How does antibiotic resistance spread?

Antibiotic resistance can cause significant danger and suffering for children and adults who have common infections, once easily treatable with antibiotics. Microbes can develop resistance to specific medicines. A common misconception is that a person's body becomes resistant to specific drugs. However, it is microbes, not people, that become resistant to the drugs.

If a microbe is resistant to many drugs, treating the infections it causes can become difficult or even impossible. Someone with an infection that is resistant to a certain medicine can pass that resistant infection to another person. In this way, a hard-to-treat illness can be spread from person to person. In some cases, the illness can lead to serious disability or even death.

As more exposures of bacteria to antibiotics occur the chance for these resistance mutations increases. The net result is more resistant bacteria in the community that can be spread from one person to another by typical means (bodily fluids, direct contact). Antibiotics are effective IF all the intended bacteria die or are at least reduced to a number that the body’s immune system could handle and finish.

Continue Learning about Superbugs

C. Diff: Can You Get Infected at Your Doctor’s Office?
C. Diff: Can You Get Infected at Your Doctor’s Office?
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that Clostridium difficile, or C. diff—once mainly found in hospital...
Read More
What are the risks of overusing antibiotics?
Centerpoint Medical CenterCenterpoint Medical Center
Antibiotics are medications that treat an infection caused by bacteria. They do not treat infections...
More Answers
Superbug Hot Spots
Superbug Hot SpotsSuperbug Hot SpotsSuperbug Hot SpotsSuperbug Hot Spots
MRSA is now infecting people in places you'd never suspect.
Start Slideshow
How to Stop the Spread of Antibiotic Resistance
How to Stop the Spread of Antibiotic Resistance

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.