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...

Tdap vaccination coverage during pregnancy, active component service women, 2006 – 2014

Infographic
8/14/2017
Tdap vaccination coverage during pregnancy, active component service women, 2006 – 2014

This infographic documents findings from a surveillance study that assessed Tdap vaccination coverage among pregnant service women during 2006 through 2014.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis | Women's Health

Surveillance Snapshot Norovirus Outbreaks among Military Forces, 2008 – 2016

Infographic
8/8/2017
Surveillance Snapshot Norovirus Outbreaks among Military Forces, 2008 – 2016

Norovirus (NoV) is a highly contagious virus and a leading cause of gastroenteritis among military populations. There are many different strains of norovirus and immunity to one strain does not protect against another. This report summarizes the NoV outbreaks in military forces in both garrison and deployed settings during 2008 – 2016.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Skin and Soft Tissue Infections Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013 – 2016

Infographic
7/24/2017
Skin and Soft Tissue Infections Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013 – 2016

This report documents the incident cases of skin and soft tissue infections among active component U.S. military member during a 4-year surveillance period.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Age-Period-Cohort Analysis of Colorectal Cancer Service Members Aged 20-59 Years Active Component U.S. Armed Forces, 1997 – 2016

Infographic
7/24/2017
Age-Period-Cohort Analysis of Colorectal Cancer Service Members Aged 20-59 Years Active Component U.S. Armed Forces, 1997 – 2016

This report documents the time-varying elements of age, period, and birth cohort effects in the epidemiology of colorectal cancer among members of the active component.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Preventable and Treatable: Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Infographic
7/20/2017
Preventable and Treatable: Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

This infographic documents the risks, early signs and symptoms, and preventive treatment measures related to heat illnesses.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Summer Safety

Heat Illness Prevention: Use the Buddy System to Stay Cool and Safe

Infographic
7/20/2017
Heat Illness Prevention: Use the Buddy System to Stay Cool and Safe

This infographic documents the use of the buddy system to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Summer Safety

Incidence of Nontyphoidal Salmonella Intestinal Infections Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007 – 2016

Infographic
7/11/2017
Incidence of Nontyphoidal Salmonella Intestinal Infections Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007 – 2016

This report summarizes the counts, rates, and trends of nontyphoidal Salmonella infections in active component service members during a 10-year surveillance period.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Incidence of Escherichia Coli Intestinal Infections Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007 – 2016

Infographic
7/11/2017
Incidence of Escherichia Coli Intestinal Infections Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007 – 2016

This report summarizes the counts, rates, and trends of Escherichia coli gastrointestinal infections in active component service members over the past 10 years.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Estimate of the Incidence of Norovirus Infections Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007 - 2016

Infographic
7/11/2017
Estimate of the Incidence of Norovirus Infections Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007 - 2016

This report estimates the incidence of norovirus diagnoses among active component service members during a 10-year surveillance period.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Viral Hepatitis A, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007 - 2016

Infographic
6/19/2017
Viral Hepatitis A, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007 - 2016

This infographic documents the frequencies, incidence rates, trends, and correlates of risk of hepatitis A among active component service members of the U.S. military during 2007-2016.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot) U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2016

Infographic
6/19/2017
Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot) U.S. Armed Forces, 2000-2016

This infographic summarizes the counts, rates, trends and demographic characteristics of diagnoses of tinea pedis among U.S. active component service members during 2000 -2016.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Risk Factors for Tinea Pedis Infections (Athlete’s Foot) among U.S. Armed Forces

Infographic
6/19/2017
Risk Factors for Tinea Pedis Infections (Athlete’s Foot) among U.S. Armed Forces

This infographic documents the risk factors for tinea pedis infections (athlete’s foot).

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Surveillance Snapshot: Respiratory Infections Resulting in Hospitalizations, U.S. Air Force Recruits, October 2010 – February 2017

Infographic
6/19/2017
Surveillance Snapshot: Respiratory Infections Resulting in Hospitalizations, U.S. Air Force Recruits, October 2010 – February 2017

This infographic displays the trend in hospitalizations for respiratory infections, stratified by major pathogens, and associated hospital days for all recruits in U.S. Air Force Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland, TX.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

Medical encounters, by condition, U.S. Armed Forces 2016

Infographic
5/25/2017
Medical encounters, by condition, U.S. Armed Forces 2016

This infographic documents the three burden of disease related conditions that accounted for the most medical encounters among the active component of the U.S. Armed Forces in 2016.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Conditions and Treatments

Accidental Drownings Among U.S. Service Members

Infographic
5/25/2017
Accidental Drownings Among U.S. Service Members

Military members are at risk for unintentional drownings during training, occupational activities and off-duty recreation. This infographic provides swim safety information to help increase awareness and lower the risks of accidental drownings among service members.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Summer Safety
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 7
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.