How antimicrobial resistance is threatening one of our most critical health tools

Why antibiotics are a critical medicine and how we can help protect them

November 7, 2022

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woman, man and child smiling, AMR story

Imagine you’re driving and get a flat tire. It’s inconvenient, but that’s why there’s a spare tire in your trunk. You change the flat and you’re on your way. Problem solved.

Now consider the situation if you didn’t have a spare tire handy. Maybe you keep driving, thinking you can make it home. Maybe you have a harder time controlling your car and crash. A small inconvenience becomes an even bigger problem with even bigger implications.

Like with spare tires, we want antibiotics available if — and when — we need them. Because our health can depend on them.

Now, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is threatening our antibiotics. If not addressed, it could mean we lose their benefits.

Why should you care about antibiotics?

Antibiotics have been a standard part of modern medicine for decades — likely your whole life. They’re a type of antimicrobial, or a medicine that treats or prevents infectious diseases caused by certain pathogens.

Specifically, antibiotics treat bacterial infections, and they hold a more important role than you may realize.

Antibiotics revolutionized health care by helping people to receive important treatments every day. Without antibiotics, we wouldn’t be able to manage potential infections related to surgeries, organ transplants and cancer treatments.

But AMR is spreading, and it’s threatening the future of antibiotics.

What’s AMR and why does it matter?

AMR is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Pathogens, like bacteria and fungi, naturally evolve to survive antimicrobial treatments, like antibiotics.

But now, resistance to antibiotics is developing faster and continues to pick up speed.

AMR can easily spread with remarkable speed through people, animals and the environment. It doesn’t just threaten our health and antibiotic use. AMR can impact food safety, global security and even economic stability.

How can we slow the threat of AMR?

Antibiotics, like many other helpful tools, aren’t always top of mind. Nobody thinks about when they’ll need to use their basin wrench until their faucet starts leaking.

But soon, if we’re not careful, we could reach for antibiotics and find that they’re not able to help us when we need them most.

That’s why the time to act is now — and you can help. While it will take multiple solutions and a collaborative effort to address this threat, we can all play a role.

First and foremost, you can do your part to prevent infections that require the use of antibiotics, for example, by washing hands and preparing food hygienically.

And be diligent about using antibiotics appropriately. That means using them only as prescribed, only for certain infections, and following doctors’ orders.

Help us fight the threat of AMR to one of the most important health tools in our public health arsenal.