Skip to main content

Military Health System

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria and How to Counter Them

Image of Graphic image of a skeleton. Antimicrobial resistance, or the ability of a microbe to resist the effects of medication previously used to treat them, is a growing threat to both public health and the warfighter. (Photo: Courtesy of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency)

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Public Health

Doctors are increasingly concerned about the potential for a "post-antibiotic" era when the highly effective drugs that we have relied on for many years to cure some of the most common illnesses will become ineffective.

The problem stems from the misuse of antibiotics, which are common medications that aim to kill infectious bacteria or prevent them from reproducing, thus getting rid of infections and their symptoms.

As use of life-saving antibiotics has increased around the world, some bacteria are becoming resistant to this type of medication. Those antibiotic-resistant bacteria can evolve into so-called superbugs, which can spread and become more dangerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Misuse of antibiotics includes overuse and not following correct protocols, such as the failure to finish your whole treatment to completely kill off the bacteria; or taking antibiotics to treat symptoms of infection without knowing for sure whether it's a bacterial or viral infection. (Antibiotics don't work for viral infections, such as COVID-19, the flu, colds, pneumonia, or herpes.)

It's an especially acute concern for the military community and military readiness because service members who deploy around the globe can be exposed to many different types of bacteria.

For example, "during conflicts in the Middle East, military members were infected with a highly resistant bacterium, Acinetobacter baumannii," said Navy Capt. Guillermo Pimentel, chief of the Defense Health Agency's Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division (AFHSD).

"The complexity of these infections caused longer recovery times and often resulted in catastrophic disability," he said.

To avoid this and to protect and treat deployed forces, "it's crucial to determine the amount of antibiotic resistance in different geographic regions and track the movement of antibiotic resistance genes," he said.

And because wounded, ill, and injured service members have returned home at increased rates due to advances in first aid and casualty care, there is growing risk of "possible transmission into Veteran's Affairs and civilian medical care facilities as service members leave active duty," said Army Maj. Ashley Hydrick, lead of the Antimicrobial Resistance Focus Area for the Defense Department's Global Emerging Infections Surveillance (GEIS) Program at DHA. The program is housed within the AFHSD.

The AFHSD conducts medical surveillance to protect service members and U.S. allies. As part of its support for the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, AFHSD's GEIS program partners perform surveillance to identify where antibiotic resistance (AR) infections are occurring, both within the Military Health System and in partner nations where service members are (or could be) deployed.

AR is one of the greatest contemporary threats to global public health, according to a 2019 CDC report. It can affect anyone at any stage of life and anywhere in the world, but those with chronic illness are at greater risk.

In the United States alone, 2.8 million people are infected with AR bacteria or fungi every year, and more than 35,000 people die due to AR-associated infections, according to the agency.

The World Health Organization has sounded the alarm about the potential risks around the world. "Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill," the WHO warned in 2020.

How you can help

Infections caused by AR germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. "In most cases, AR infections require extended hospital stays, additional follow-up doctor visits, and costly and toxic alternatives," according to the CDC.

And while it is difficult to completely avoid the risk of AR infections, individuals can help mitigate risks.

"Service members and the public can do their part by working with their health care providers to take any prescribed antibiotics as instructed, to always finish their prescribed course of antibiotics, and never take antibiotics without the instruction of a health care provider," said Hydrick. "We can also do the same for our animal companions.

Adopting healthy habits can help protect us from infections. Some of these include getting recommended vaccines, taking good care of chronic conditions, like diabetes, keeping hands and wounds clean, and talking to your health care provider or veterinarian about whether antibiotics are needed, says the CDC.

You also may be interested in...

AFHSD 2021 Annual Report and 2020 Summary

Report
9/23/2022

This annual report provides a summary of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division's accomplishments during 2021.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

NAMI Recompression Chamber Supports Area Training Missions, Operations

Article Around MHS
8/29/2022
Military personnel demos compression chamber

Scuba diving can be extremely dangerous, and it’s possible for divers to develop adverse medical conditions and injuries while performing underwater operations. A common diving injury is decompression sickness (DCS), also referred to as the “bends”.

Recommended Content:

Public Health

Taking the stings out of summer fun

Article
8/15/2022
Beekeeper in protective gear holds framework with bees and honey..

What you should know and do about bee, wasp, and hornet stings

Recommended Content:

Bug-Borne Illnesses | Summer Safety | Public Health

What You Need to Know About Monkeypox

Article
8/5/2022
A human hand with sores

Monkeypox is rare. Here’s how to protect yourself and your family and when to contact a medical provider.

Recommended Content:

Monkeypox | Public Health

Monkeypox Declared Public Health Emergency: What Airmen and Guardians Need to Know

Article Around MHS
8/4/2022
Microscopic view of monkeypox virus

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency on July 23. With more than 4,000 cases in the United States, Airmen and Guardians should know the risks and how to stay safe.

Recommended Content:

Monkeypox | Public Health

Army Experts: Rabies Risk is Not Worth It

Article
7/5/2022
Army Experts: Rabies Risk is Not Worth It

Almost 60,000 people around the world die from rabies each year. Despite the common belief that rabid animals are easily identified by foaming at the mouth and aggressive behavior, infected animals may not look sick or act strangely.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health | Rabies

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 07 - July 2022

Report
7/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Surveillance trends for SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory pathogens among U.S. Military Health System Beneficiaries, Sept. 27, 2020 – Oct. 2,2021; Establishment of SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance within the MHS during March 1 – Dec. 31 2020; Suicide behavior among heterosexual, lesbian/gay, and bisexual active component service members in the U.S. Armed Forces; Brief report: Phase I results using the Virtual Pooled Registry Cancer Linkage system (VPR-CLS) for military cancer surveillance.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report

Four-legged Major Brings Joy to Brooke Army Medical Center

Article Around MHS
6/23/2022
Labrador facility dogs at ceremony

Brooke Army Medical Center commissioned a new, four-legged staff member with a penchant for spreading joy to the rank of United States Army major during a ceremony June 6.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 06 - June 2022

Report
6/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Hospitalizations, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Ambulatory visits, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Surveillance snapshot: Illness and injury burdens, re¬serve component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Surveillance snapshot: Illness and injury burdens, recruit trainees, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Medical evacuations out of the U.S. Central and U.S. Africa Commands, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, deployed active and reserve component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, non-service member ben¬eficiaries of the Military Health System, 2021

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

Physical Disability Board of Review Process Chart

Fact Sheet
5/12/2022

This document shows the flow chart for how the PDBR processes requests for reviews of disability ratings.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Physical Disability Board of Review | Physical Disability Board of Review | Physical Disability Board of Review

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 05 - May 2022

Report
5/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Sexually transmitted infections, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013–2021; Evaluation of ICD-10-CM-based case definitions of ambulatory encounters for COVID-19 among Department of Defense health care beneficiaries; The association between two bogus items, demographics, and military characteristics in a 2019 cross-sectional survey of U.S. Army soldiers; Surveillance snapshot: Tick-borne encephalitis in Military's Health System beneficiaries, 2012–2021.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

Military Medical Officials Back FY 23 Budget Before Senate Appropriations Committee

Article
4/6/2022
Marines with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing take precautionary measures by cleaning and disinfecting their hands during field day on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., March 20, 2020, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to perform mission-essential tasks. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

Military Medical officials, including Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald J. Place, Defense Health Agency director, back FY 23 Budget before the Senate Appropriations Committee, March 29, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

The New Public Health Director Talks about His Goals for Force Readiness

Article
4/5/2022
Rear Admiral Brandon Taylor of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in dress whites at the 2019 National Independence Day Parade where he represented the U.S. Surgeon General as a presiding official with the other services. Taylor was named in February as the new director of the Defense Health Agency’s Public Health directorate. (Photo: Tanisha Blaise, Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division senior public relations and media specialist)

Rear Adm. Brandon Taylor was recently appointed to be the new director for the Defense Health Agency’s Public Health directorate. In an interview, he discussed how he is approaching his new role, his goals for Public Health within DHA, and the importance of Public Health to a medically ready force and a ready medical force.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Military Health System Transformation

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 04 - April 2022

Report
4/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Exertional heat illness at Fort Benning, GA: Unique insights from the Army Heat Center; Update: Heat illness, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2017–2021; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2006–2021

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

Public Health Week

Infographic
3/15/2022
Public Health Week

Today is #NationalPublicHealthWeek! After experiencing a pandemic first-hand, we can probably all agree public health is a vital concern. Thank you to all those doctors, nurses, and researchers who are working hard towards building bridges to better health!

Recommended Content:

April | Public Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 31
Refine your search
Last Updated: May 23, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery