Defining Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

August 23, 2023

Defining Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic resistance occurs when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means that germs are not killed and only continue to grow. Resistant infections can be difficult, and sometimes impossible to treat. Examples of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are:

  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE)
  • Multi-drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MDR-TB)
  • Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) gut bacteria

People receiving care in healthcare facilities, like hospitals and nursing homes, can get serious infections called healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). They occur during or after procedures like surgery, or from devices like catheters and ventilators. Sometimes these infections can be caused by antibiotic-resistant germs.  Here are some of the ways these infections can spread in a healthcare setting:

  • Through the body and cause infections through procedures and medical devices
  • Spread to people on surfaces like bedrails or the hands of healthcare workers
  • From patient to patient when they are transferred from one healthcare facility to another or into the community when patients go home



Antibiotic resistance affects people at any stage of life. This resistance can lead to extended hospital stays, additional follow-up appointments and the use of treatments that may be costly or potentially toxic. Scientific evidence shows that traces of antibiotics and antifungals, germs resistant to them and genes that cause resistance traits can spread in waterways and soils. Human activity can contaminate the environment (water, soil) with antibiotics and antifungals. Contamination occurs from:

  • Human and animal waste
  • Use of antibiotics and antifungals as pesticides on plants or crops
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing waste

A growing list of infections – such as: pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhea and foodborne diseases – are becoming harder to treat as antibiotics become less effective.  Physicians are unable to recognize antibiotic resistance until the treatment process. For example, an antibiotic that had previously been successful for a patient suddenly stops working or becomes less effective. It takes time to realize what is happening, and meanwhile, the patient becomes sicker. An infection that previously could be treated at home may require a hospital admission.

Over the years, various strains of bacteria have adapted to the medicines that typically kill them. These bacteria fight back against the drugs rendering them ineffective.  The bacteria, known as superbugs, continue multiplying and cause infections despite treatment with several antibiotics.  Some bacterial infections with superbug status are:

  • diff (Clostridioides difficile)
  • Gonorrhea
  • Staphylococcus (staph) infections such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Tuberculosis

You may be more likely to develop or be impacted by antibiotic resistance if you have AIDS, are being treated for an autoimmune disease (like lupus with immunosuppression therapy), have cancer or are an organ transplant recipient.



Cynthia Alder-Smith, RHIT, CSS

Auditor | Excite Health Partners



‘About Antimicrobial Resistance’ Web Article, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 5, 2022.

‘Antibiotic resistance’ Web Article, World Health Organization, July 31, 2020.

‘Antibiotic Resistance’ Web Article, Cleveland Clinic, June 23, 2021.

‘The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis’ Web Article, National Library of Medicine, April 2015.