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. 

Infections linked to resistant bacteria 

Symptoms of infections linked to resistant bacteria depend on:

  • the bacteria
  • the localisation of the infection (respiratory tract, digestive tract, skin, mucous membranes, etc.) 
  • the condition of the infected person's health (weak, immunodepressed, etc.). 

The antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause different infections depending on whether they are contracted in healthcare establishments, are community-acquired or contracted through food.

DID YOU KNOW? An individual can be a carrier of an antibiotic-resistant bacterium without necessarily developing an infection. However, a “healthy carrier” can transmit bacteria to an ill or more fragile person who would risk developing a severe infection. So preventative measures and hygiene measures are there to protect yourself; and to protect others!

In healthcare establishments

Nosocomial infections are those contracted in hospital, which were completely absent at the point of admission and that have no link at all with the reason for admission. The majority of infections contracted in hospital are linked to resistant bacteria: 

  • pneumonia (MRSA
  • operating theatre infections, arising from a surgical intervention (MRSA, Acinetobacter baumanii)
  • urinary infections (Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa)
  • infections linked to catheters used during intensive care (Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium)
  • gastrointestinal infections (Escherichia coli, Clostridium, MRSA)
  • cutaneous infections (MRSA, Pseudomonas aeruginosa)
  • diseases of the bones and joints (MRSA, Streptococcus pneumoniae, enterococci, enterobacteriaceae)
  • infections of the ENT sphere (MRSA, Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • septicaemia (MRSA, ESBL enterobacteria: Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae).

The hospital departments where the risk of contracting an infection caused by a resistant bacterium is greatest are those departments that use a lot of antibiotics:

  • intensive care
  • oncology (cancer treatment)
  • haematology (auto-immune diseases)
  • operating theatre
  • geriatrics.


Resistance to antibiotics also arises outside of hospitals, over the course of an apparently harmless antibiotic treatment. Certain bacterial strains that cause infections that are “community-acquired” (outside of healthcare establishments) have also become resistant to antibiotics:

  • gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae)
  • pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae)
  • tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis).

In food

Animals intended for consumption are also given antibiotics. Their meat can therefore also be contaminated with resistant bacteria, that are transmitted through food and cause food poisoning:

  • intestinal infections (Campylobacter jejuni, E. coli, Clostridium, MRSA)
  • gastroenteritis, salmonellosis (Salmonella).

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). 

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