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Antibiotic Resistance

What is an antibiotic?

Over time the term antibiotic has been used to mean slightly differing things, but now in both a public and professional way it is more understood to mean an antibacterial.

Antibacterials are used to treat bacterial infections in both people and animals and fall under the collective term of antimicrobials (this term also covers antivirals, antifungals and antiprotozoals).

An antimicrobial is a general term for any compound with a direct action on micro-organisms used for treatment or prevention of infections. When the broader term of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is used it is usually referring to, or certainly including, antibiotic resistance.

Further information on definitions can be found on the Heads of Medicines Agency website.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria that are usually sensitive to a type of antibiotic to become resistant to it. Resistance is a natural biological phenomenon but is increased and accelerated by various factors such as misuse of antibiotic medicines, poor infection control practices and global trade and travel.

Why should we worry about antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotics are essential medicines for treating bacterial infections in both humans and animals and they are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate. Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic and the more you use an antibiotic, the higher the risk that bacteria will develop resistance to it.

It is therefore important we use antibiotics in the right way: the right medicine, at the right dose, at the right time, and for the right duration to slow down the development of antibiotic resistance. There are very few new antibiotics in the development pipeline, which is why it is important we use our existing antibiotics wisely and make sure these life-saving medicines continue to stay effective for ourselves and our pets.

Last Updated: 08 November 2013

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