The importance of antibiotic resistance
12/7/2020 by Denise Dupras, M.D., Ph.D.
Many patients have signs and symptoms that raise concerns about infections of the bladder, skin and respiratory system, but many of these infections do not require antibiotics. Patients often ask why they can't get antibiotics even though they may have in the past. One good reason is antibiotic resistance.
What is antibiotic resistance, and why should you care?
Resistance means the antibiotic can no longer effectively treat a bacterial infection. This resistance often can be transferred to other bacteria.
Sometimes this resistance can affect an entire group or class of antibiotics, which can limit the medications available to treat current and future infections. That can make it difficult to treat even common infections in large groups of patients. Limiting the number of options for treatment increases the chances of side effects and the costs of treating patients.
Antibiotic resistance is a serious health problem. Over 2.8 million patients are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, and 35,000 people die, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You can help prevent antibiotic resistance by:
- Taking only antibiotics that are prescribed for you.
- Finishing all antibiotic prescriptions. Don't save any pills.
- Avoiding infections by washing your hands and avoiding eating foods that pose a risk for foodborne infection.
- Recognizing that many infections are viral, and viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Denise Dupras, M.D., Ph.D., is a general internist in the Division of Community Internal Medicine. She completed her medical and doctoral degrees at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and her residency in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her interests include medical education and evidence-based medicine.