Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

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...

DOD Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan

Article
12/9/2020
Soldier wearing mask, sitting in front of computer monitors

The Department prioritizes DOD personnel to receive the vaccine based on CDC guidance.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Military medicine confronts an invisible enemy

Article
12/4/2020
Medical personnel set up in an outside military tent

The collective response to the pandemic underscored the MHS reputation for innovation, with practical applications beyond military medicine.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Warrior Care | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

NMRTU Everett Hospitalman makes a difference

Article
11/24/2020
Technician wearing a mask, giving a shot to a soldier

For much of 2020, Scott has also done her share and more to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | Public Health

Air Force doctor retires after 48 years of service

Article
11/20/2020
Uniformed officer standing next to an Air Force seal, wearing a stethoscope around his shoulders

In his civilian career, Thomas maintains a private practice as an anesthesiologist in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Health Readiness & Combat Support

NMRTU Everett staff collaborate to ensure Patient Centered Care

Article
11/16/2020
Image of two military personnel wearing masks

NMRTU Everett was commended by the MHS 2020 Advancement towards High Reliability Healthcare Awards Program as a Patient Centeredness Award winner.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus

BAMC, Argentine Army medical providers share COVID-19 best practices

Article
11/4/2020
Video teleconference image

U.S. Army South facilitated the virtual subject matter expert (SME) exchange between BAMC and CMMH.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement | Health Care Technology | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Public Health | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

‘Virtual Ward’ pilot program to reduce hospital stay time

Article
10/30/2020
Man's arm with blood pressure cuff and fingertip pulse oximeter

"The idea is that instead of staying in hospital longer..., patients are released early and can recover in the comfort and privacy of their homes."

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Care Technology | Coronavirus | Public Health | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Military nurses hold virtual research & evidence-based practice course

Article
10/30/2020
Two nurses, wearing masks, examining a mannequin

Due to the COVID-19 national emergency, the three-day in-person course was abbreviated to a one-day virtual.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Research and Innovation | Nursing in the Military Health System

JBLM hosts vital blood drive during COVID-19

Article
10/29/2020
Soldier giving blood

To maintain social distancing requirements, all blood drives are by appointment only.

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

WRNMMC expands innovation and opens new, permanent drive-thru pharmacy

Article
10/23/2020
Military pharmacist, wearing a mask, looking at bags of prescriptions

The new Prescription Drive-Thru Pick-up will operate similarly as the curbside pharmacy pick-up.

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Pharmacy Operations Toolkit | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Information for Patients: TRICARE Pharmacy Program

Specialized robots used to disinfect NH TwentyninePalms

Article
10/21/2020
Hospital personnel standing with a cleaning robot

The robotic units are designed to complement manual cleaning.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Fort Irwin DENTAC strives to reach readiness perfection

Article
10/21/2020
Image of patient getting a dental exam

To accommodate an entire installation, the dental clinic extended its hours.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | TRICARE Dental Care

GEIS Program collaborates to combat antibiotic resistance

Article
10/19/2020
Scientist in a lab

Through evolution, commonly circulating pathogens can develop resistance to antibiotics,

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Annual flu vaccine remains a health priority during COVID-19 era

Article
10/13/2020
Military personnel getting flu shot

Annual vaccine is a covered TRICARE benefit.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

MHS immunization experts will answer questions about flu vaccine

Article
9/16/2020
Soldier giving another soldier a flu shot

Real-time Facebook event set for 3-4 p.m. EDT Sept. 17

Recommended Content:

Immunizations | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 3
Refine your search
Last Updated: May 23, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.