Antimicrobial, or antibiotic, resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.1
AMR can threaten the ability to treat both minor and common infections, as well as serious infectious diseases, such as pneumococcal disease (PD), tuberculosis, and HIV, potentially resulting in prolonged illness, disability, and death.2
In Canada, 1 in 16 patients admitted to hospitals will get a multi-drug resistant infection, which is more than 20,000 hospital patients developing a drug-resistant infection each year.3
AMR can affect anyone, of any age, in any country. The World Health Organization (WHO) characterizes AMR as an increasingly serious threat to global public health today.
Antibiotic resistance is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, as well as poor infection control. Steps can be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of resistance.
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, individuals can:
Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional
Avoid using antibiotics if your healthcare provider says you don’t need them
Always follow your healthcare provider’s advice when using antibiotics
Never share or use leftover antibiotics
Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, and practicing safe sex
Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food (keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials) and choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, policy makers can:
Ensure a robust national action plan to tackle antibiotic resistance is in place
Improve surveillance of antibiotic-resistant infections
Strengthen policies, programs and implementation of infection prevention and control measures
Regulate and promote the appropriate use and disposal of quality medicines
Make information available on the impact of antibiotic resistance
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, health professionals can:
Prevent infections by ensuring your hands, instruments, and environment are clean
Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are needed, according to current guidelines
Report antibiotic-resistant infections to surveillance teams
Talk to your patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance and the dangers of misuse
Talk to your patients about preventing infections (for example, hand washing, safe sex, and covering your nose and mouth when sneezing)
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, the health industry can:
Invest in research and development of new antibiotics, diagnostics and other tools
World Health Organization. Antibiotic Resistance. Available at https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance. Last accessed June 2019.
World Health Organization (WHO). Antimicrobial Resistance Fact Sheet. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/. Last accessed July 2019.
Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian Context on Antimicrobial Resistance. Available at https://www.cadth.ca/sites/default/files/symp-2018/presentations/april17-2018/Concurrent-Session-E6-Antimicrobial-Resistance-Drugs.pdf. Last accessed July 2019.