Taking antibiotics favours bacteria's resistance to them.  Antibiotics are very useful medicines. To maintain their effectiveness, they have to be used correctly and only when necessary. Antibiotics are not effective against flu, bronchitis or colds.

Incorrect use and over-consumption of antibiotics 

Resistance to antibiotics is a natural phenomenon due to genetic mutations of the bacteria.

Incorrect use of antibiotics and over-consumption of antibiotics accelerates the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria:

  • taking antibiotics when the infection is caused by a virus (cold, flu, etc.)
  • prolonging the length of the antibiotic treatment
  • reducing or increasing doses
  • taking an antibiotic when the bacteria identified is not the cause of the disease
  • taking an antibiotic when the bacteria concerned is already resistant.

You must always follow the doctor's advice regarding the administration of antibiotics.

DID YOU KNOW? Recent studies have shown that, at the correct dose, an antibiotic treatment is effective after a 3-day course. The longer the course, the more the bacteria become accustomed to it and develop resistance. Talk to your doctor about this.

Mode of transmission of resistant bacteria

Once the bacteria have become resistant, they can spread and be transmitted:

  • between people
  • between animals 
  • between people and animals 
  • between the environment and people. 

A resistant bacterium can also pass its resistance on to other bacteria.

Factors that favour the transmission of bacteria

Once established in the body, bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics can be transmitted to other people. 

The factors that favour the transmission of bacteria are applicable to all bacteria and microbes in general:

  • bad hygiene (not washing hands, etc.)
  • not respecting hot and cold temperature-control regulations for food
  • overuse of biocides in general (pesticides, disinfectants, antibiotics, etc.).

Infections linked to resistant bacteria are particularly common in hospitals, establishments that concentrate different risk factors:

  • a high consumption of antibiotics, which favours bacteria's resistance to them
  • surgery and contacts that favour the transmission of bacteria (intensive care, surgery, etc.)
  • a high-concentration of people who are already ill and weak, plus prone to infections.

Antibiotic treatment in animals intended for consumption 

Certain livestock (pork, poultry) intended for food consumption are given antibiotic treatments to prevent potential infections and to accelerate their growth. 

The bacteria present in animals can therefore also become resistant to antibiotics (Campylobacter or Salmonella) and be transmitted to humans through food or by direct contact with the animals (farmers, producers).

Please note! The main cause of the development of resistant bacteria in humans is still the use of antibiotics in humans in medicine, in communities, hospitals and other healthcare establishments.

Sciensano is the reference body in Belgium for the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance. Our activities include surveillance and surveys, as well as antimicrobial susceptibility testing in bacterial and fungal isolates originating from humans, animals and the environment (e.g. foodstuffs). 

QR code

QR code for this page URL