Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an antibiotic?

    An antibiotic is a type of drug that kills or stops the growth of bacteria. Examples include penicillin and Ciprofloxacin.

  • What is an antimicrobial?

    An antimicrobial is a type of drug that kills or stops the growth of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

  • What is antibiotic resistance?

    Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic – that is, the bacteria are not killed, and their growth is not stopped. Resistant bacteria survive exposure to the antibiotic and continue to multiply in the body, potentially causing more harm and spreading to other animals or people.

  • What effects do resistant infections have on people?

    Some resistant infections cause severe illness. People with these infections:

    • May require increased recovery time,
    • Tend to incur increased medical expenses, and/or
    • May die from the infection.

  • What are some other consequences of antibiotic resistance?

    Physicians have to recommend second- or third-choice drugs for treatment when the bacteria that cause infections are resistant to the drug of choice and this drug doesn’t work. But the alternative drugs might be less effective, more toxic, and more expensive. Preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics is vital to protecting human and animal health.

  • How do resistant bacteria in food animals end up in our food?

    All animals carry bacteria in their intestines. Giving antibiotics will kill many bacteria, but resistant bacteria can survive and multiply. When food animals are slaughtered and processed, these resistant bacteria can contaminate the meat or other animal products. These bacteria can also get into the environment when an animal poops and may spread to produce that is irrigated with contaminated water.

  • How do people get infections with resistant bacteria from animals?

    There are several direct routes by which people can get antibiotic-resistant bacteria that develop in industrial food animal production:

    • Improperly handling or consuming inadequately cooked contaminated meat.
    • Contact with infected farm workers or meat processors, or perhaps their families, doctors and others with whom they interact.
    • Drinking contaminated surface or ground water and eating contaminated crops.
    • Contacting air that is vented from concentrated animal housing or is released during animal transport.

  • What are some other reasons why my doctor may be reluctant to prescribe antibiotics to me or my child?

    Antibiotics cause 1 out of 5 emergency department visits for negative side effects (also called adverse side effects or ADE). Most of these side effects are allergic reactions that can be mild to serious. One serious side effect to antibiotics can be severe diarrhea due to Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection. This happens when the antibiotic you take changes the normal state of your intestines and results in a serious case of diarrhea that can result in death. We are now seeing more and more cases of C difficile infecting people who are not in the hospital. In 2011, C. difficile caused almost half a million infections and 29,000 deaths in the U.S.

  • Have more questions? Visit the CDC website.