Antibiotic resistance
anˌtībīˈädik rəˈzistəns  
Nearby words
Antibiotic resistant

noun. The ability of bacteria to change or adapt in response to antibiotics designed to kill them, making those antibiotics less effective or ineffective in killing the bacteria.


“The overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to resistance.”


“Even when used appropriately and as prescribed, antibiotics can drive bacteria to become antibiotic-resistant. However, the unnecessary and are excessive use of antibiotics has made antibiotic-resistant bacteria are increasingly common.” 


Related word


Antibiotic resistant

noun. (A microorganism is) able to stop an antibiotic from working against it.  

“Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections currently claim at least 50,000 lives each year across UK, Europe and the US alone.”


Learning point

What causes antibiotic resistance?


Some antibiotic resistance occurs naturally. Antibiotics, such as penicillin, originally came from fungi or bacteria found naturally in the soil. Sensitive bacteria in the soil may adapt over time and become antibiotic-resistant. Usually, the level of antibiotics in the environment is very low and in the 1930s (just after the development of penicillin), infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria were rare. 


Overuse and misuse of antibiotics have increased the rate at which the resistance is developing and spreading worldwide. It is estimated that around 200,000 to 250,000 tons of antimicrobials are being produced and consumed worldwide each year.[1] [2] About 70% of these antimicrobials are consumed by animals, and 30% by humans.


Most antibiotics consumed by humans and animals are excreted in urine and faeces and enter sewage systems, contaminating the environment. When exposed to antibiotics, bacteria living in humans and animals could also develop antibiotic resistance, and those antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread to other people and the environment.[2] [3]


Those who have a bacterial infection needs to be treated with antibiotics. However, those who do not have bacterial infections should not take antibiotics. Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, predicted antibiotic resistance from the start and said:


“The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of man who succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism”


Nowadays, penicillin is rarely used to treat common infectious diseases in humans and animals, because common pathogens are already penicillin resistant. Currently, a variety of antibiotics are being used instead of penicillin. It is estimated that about 700,000 people die of antimicrobial-resistant infections yearly, and the number could rise to 10,000,000 deaths per year in 2050.[1] We have not seen a truly new class of antibiotics for decades.


“We need a global public awareness campaign to educate all of us about drug resistance. I see this as an urgent priority,” Lord Jim O’Neill.[1]


Check out these videos about antibiotic resistance:

 The Antibiotic Apocalypse Explained 

What Antibiotic Resistance Evolve | Science News 



1 O'Neill, J. (2016, March 19). Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally: Final Report and Recommendations. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. Retrieved from paper_with cover.pdf

2 Sarmah, A. K., Meyer, M. T., & Boxall, A. B. (2006). A global perspective on the use, sales, exposure pathways, occurrence, fate and effects of veterinary antibiotics (VAs) in the environment. Chemosphere,65(5), 725-759. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2006.03.026

3  Boeckel, T. P., Brower, C., Gilbert, M., Grenfell, B. T., Levin, S. A., Robinson, T. P., . . . Laxminarayan, R. (2015). Global trends in antimicrobial use in food animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,112(18), 5649-5654. doi:10.1073/pnas.1503141112


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