Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microorganisms to grow despite being exposed to antimicrobial agents. As a result, the microorganisms continue to remain in the body spreading the infections to others. There are several biological and social causes that lead to antimicrobial resistance.

The microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs.” As a consequence, the disease is not eradicated from the body increasing the risk of spreading it to others.

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Causes of Antimicrobial Resistance

The main cause of antimicrobial resistance is increased use of antibiotics. With the increased use of antibiotics, few bacteria become resistant. This gives them a chance to thrive and multiply and the person is more prone to infections.

Besides this, there are several other causes of antimicrobial resistance. Few of such causes are mentioned below:

Biological Causes

Some of the biological causes of antimicrobial resistance include:

Selective Pressure

In the presence of antimicrobial agents, the microbes are either killed or survive if they contain the antimicrobial resistance genes. These will replicate and become dominant throughout the microbial population.


Microbes divide every few hours. They evolve rapidly and acclimatize to the new environmental conditions. During the division, mutations arise in some of the microbes and some mutations make them resistant to the antimicrobial agents.

Gene Transfer

Bacteria with antimicrobial-resistant DNA might transfer their genes to the non-resistant bacteria.

Social Causes

The manner in which people use antimicrobial agents contributes to the causes of antimicrobial resistance. Some of the social causes are mentioned below:

Inappropriate Use

When a person does not complete the course of the drug, some microbes become resistant and stop responding to the drug. Also, if the drugs are taken for the infections they cannot cure, the microbes develop resistance.

Agriculture Use

Drug-resistant bacteria are found in food crops that are exposed to fertilizers or contaminated water. Thus, the diseases affecting the animals pass to humans.

Hospital Use

The people who are seriously ill require antimicrobials in higher doses. This spreads the resistant microbes.

Also read: Useful Microorganisms

Antibiotic Resistance vs Antimicrobial Resistance

The bacteria resisting antibiotics exhibit antibiotic resistance. On the contrary, when a microbe opposes the drug created to kill it, it is known as antimicrobial resistance.

Examples of Antimicrobial Resistance


TB was a major threat before the development of antibiotics. The drug-resistant forms of TB have emerged only recently. These forms of diseases do not respond to standard antibiotic treatments. Drug-Resistant TB is very difficult to treat. Poor management can prove to be fatal.


This is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. Nowadays the cases of drug-resistant Gonorrhoea have come into play.

Escherichia coli

These bacteria are responsible for foodborne diseases and infections in the urinary tract. The cases of antibiotic resistance are increasing rapidly in E.coli.


In many parts of the world, drug-resistant parasites of malaria have developed such that they have become resistant to these antimalarial drugs. Scientists have, however, devised some alternatives to prevent the shortcomings of antimicrobial drugs. Such as preparing virus that can consume the bacteria, preparing vaccines for the diseases, using probiotics to restore the gut microbes, etc.

Also read: Microbes and Disease

Antimicrobial Resistance- A Global Concern

New mechanisms of resistance are spreading worldwide, threatening our ability to treat infectious diseases. This has led to prolonged illness, and death. The medical procedures such as organ transplantation, chemotherapy have become a very high risk due to lack of effective antimicrobials. Antimicrobial resistance deteriorates health with more intensive care required.

It is a common problem that is driven by several correlated factors. National action plans are required to combat antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial medicines and vaccines should be invented.

World Health Organization is also providing technical assistance to the countries to develop national action plans against antimicrobial resistance. It is working in collaboration with FAO and OIE to provide best practices avoiding antimicrobial resistance.

Also Read: Bacteria

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Frequently Asked Questions


What is antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microorganisms to stop an antibiotic from working against it.


How is antimicrobial resistance different from antibiotic resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is the resistance to drugs that treat the infections caused by microbes such as virus, fungi, etc. On the contrary, antibiotic resistance takes place when bacteria change in some way that reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics.


What is the role of antimicrobials?

Antimicrobials are used to control the growth of microbes through sanitation, disinfection, etc. These are proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.


How do the antimicrobials work?

The antimicrobials work at the cellular level to disrupt and prevent the growth of microorganisms. These create an uninhabitable environment for the microbes and inhibit their growth. Thus they protect everyday products such as toys, textiles and other equipments from contamination.


Why is antimicrobial resistance a global concern?

Antimicrobial resistance checks the destruction of microorganisms, thereby, threatening the treatment of severe infections caused by bacteria, virus, fungi, etc. Thus, it is a great threat to public health around the globe.

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