People talking

Tell me more about antibiotic resistance


Antibiotic resistance happens naturally, but overprescribing and incorrect use of antibiotics has accelerated the spread of resistance. Increases in antibiotic resistance means that infections that were once easy to treat are becoming increasingly difficult to cure.

How do bacteria become resistant?

Bacteria adapt to their environment in order to survive, so when faced with an antibiotic that can harm them, they will try to change to overcome this. This is the driving force behind the development of antibiotic resistance, which is when an antibiotic is no longer capable of killing or stopping the growth of bacterial infections it was once effective against.

Like humans, bacteria have DNA that determines their makeup and behaviour. When bacteria multiply, they copy their DNA, a process that leads to small changes (known as mutations) in the DNA sequence. Depending on where these mutations occur in the DNA, this results in changes in bacteria that can make them resistant in different ways to antibiotics.

An individual bacterium can also become resistant to antibiotics by either mating with other bacteria or “ingesting” mobile pieces of resistant DNA directly from the environment. These ways of becoming resistant can develop and spread rapidly as bacteria multiply quickly and share their DNA with each other.

As antibiotic resistant bacteria spread, more people develop resistant infections

Traditionally, doctors find out whether an antibiotic might work a few days after taking a sample from their patients. But often these infections need to be treated immediately and so doctors get guidance as to which antibiotics to use based on the number of cases of resistance observed in the population. Once the number of cases of resistance to an antibiotic for a particular bacterial infection are high enough, this antibiotic will be replaced with another more likely to be effective. This means the original antibiotic isn’t used even in people who would have been cured by it.

We are developing a test which will tell you and your doctor the infection you have as well as the antibiotics most likely to successfully treat it immediately within a few minutes. This will improve the chances of your infection being cured the first time, and make full use of the antibiotics available to us.