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...

2000-2019 DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
9/30/2020

DVBIC is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking TBI data in the U.S. military. On this page you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members — anywhere U.S. forces are located — with a first-time TBI diagnosis from 2000-2019.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources | Worldwide TBI Numbers | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | TBI Provider Resources

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 & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

Wildfire smoke wreaks havoc on respiratory and immune systems

Article
9/11/2020
Picture of a military tent; an orange, smoky hue surrounds the tent and soldiers

State and country health advisory alerts on diminished air quality have been posted and shared to alert local populations.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Disaster Prep Toolkit | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Environmental Fitness

Thirteen years ago Ft. Knox prepared for outbreak scenarios

Article
9/10/2020
Front page of newspaper

Some of the preventive measures that surfaced from the 2007 exercise included the wearing of facial coverings, regular sanitizing of surfaces and social distancing by such means as teleworking.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Public Health | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Army radiology instructor and medic render assistance to crash victim

Article
9/2/2020
Mom and Dad in military gear with their young son.

Their medical training helped with knowing the steps for CPR and how to check responsiveness and breathing.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 27 No. 9 - September 2020

Report
9/1/2020

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Routine screening for antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus, civilian applicants for U.S. military service and U.S. Armed Forces, active and reserve components, January 2015–June 2020; Incidence of inguinal hernia and repair procedures and rate of subsequent pain diagnoses, active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010–2019; Surveillance of spotted fever rickettsioses at Army installations in the U.S. Central and Atlantic regions, 2012–2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

Elective surgeries resume within the San Antonio Military Health System

Article
8/25/2020
Two surgeons in an operating room

Patients whose procedures were delayed will be contacted by their surgical team or clinic.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Air Force invention kills toxins on contact

Article
8/20/2020
Image of a man in a white coat doing experiments. Click to open a larger version of the image.

An Air Force invention could be key to reducing the amount of airborne microbes...inside buildings and homes.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Health and Housing | Mold

NMHM looks back at the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ for one Maryland county

Article
8/19/2020
Black and white image of hospital beds lined up in rows, occupied by sick people

The 1918 flu resembled a more severe cold.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Public Health

2012 DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
8/10/2020

DVBIC is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking TBI data in the U.S. military. On this page you’ll find annual and quarterly reports that provide data on the number of active-duty service members — anywhere U.S. forces are located — with a first-time TBI diagnosis since 2000.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Provider Resources | TBICoE Research | A Head for the Future | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Defense Medical Surveillance System | Surveillance Case Definitions | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

2011 DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
8/10/2020

DVBIC is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking TBI data in the U.S. military. On this page you’ll find annual and quarterly reports that provide data on the number of active-duty service members — anywhere U.S. forces are located — with a first-time TBI diagnosis since 2000.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Provider Resources | TBICoE Research | A Head for the Future | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Defense Medical Surveillance System | Surveillance Case Definitions | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

2014 DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
8/10/2020

DVBIC is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking TBI data in the U.S. military. On this page you’ll find annual and quarterly reports that provide data on the number of active-duty service members — anywhere U.S. forces are located — with a first-time TBI diagnosis since 2000.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Provider Resources | TBICoE Research | A Head for the Future | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Defense Medical Surveillance System | Surveillance Case Definitions | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

2013 DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
8/10/2020

DVBIC is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking TBI data in the U.S. military. On this page you’ll find annual and quarterly reports that provide data on the number of active-duty service members — anywhere U.S. forces are located — with a first-time TBI diagnosis since 2000.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Provider Resources | TBICoE Research | A Head for the Future | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Defense Medical Surveillance System | Surveillance Case Definitions | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

2015 DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
8/10/2020

DVBIC is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking TBI data in the U.S. military. On this page you’ll find annual and quarterly reports that provide data on the number of active-duty service members — anywhere U.S. forces are located — with a first-time TBI diagnosis since 2000.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Provider Resources | TBICoE Research | A Head for the Future | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Defense Medical Surveillance System | Surveillance Case Definitions | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

2007 DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
8/10/2020

DVBIC is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking TBI data in the U.S. military. On this page you’ll find annual and quarterly reports that provide data on the number of active-duty service members — anywhere U.S. forces are located — with a first-time TBI diagnosis since 2000.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Provider Resources | TBICoE Research | A Head for the Future | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Defense Medical Surveillance System | Surveillance Case Definitions | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 29
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.