Resistance to antibiotics: are we in the post-antibiotic era?

Arch Med Res. Nov-Dec 2005;36(6):697-705. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2005.06.009.


Serious infections caused by bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotics have become a major global healthcare problem in the 21st century. They not only are more severe and require longer and more complex treatments, but they are also significantly more expensive to diagnose and to treat. Antibiotic resistance, initially a problem of the hospital setting associated with an increased number of hospital-acquired infections usually in critically ill and immunosuppressed patients, has now extended into the community causing severe infections difficult to diagnose and treat. The molecular mechanisms by which bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics are diverse and complex. Bacteria have developed resistance to all different classes of antibiotics discovered to date. The most frequent type of resistance is acquired and transmitted horizontally via the conjugation of a plasmid. In recent times new mechanisms of resistance have resulted in the simultaneous development of resistance to several antibiotic classes creating very dangerous multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial strains, some also known as "superbugs". The indiscriminate and inappropriate use of antibiotics in outpatient clinics, hospitalized patients and in the food industry is the single largest factor leading to antibiotic resistance. In recent years, the number of new antibiotics licensed for human use in different parts of the world has been lower than in the recent past. In addition, there has been less innovation in the field of antimicrobial discovery research and development. The pharmaceutical industry, large academic institutions or the government are not investing the necessary resources to produce the next generation of newer safe and effective antimicrobial drugs. In many cases, large pharmaceutical companies have terminated their anti-infective research programs altogether due to economic reasons. The potential negative consequences of all these events are relevant because they put society at risk for the spread of potentially serious MDR bacterial infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / economics
  • Bacterial Infections* / economics
  • Bacterial Infections* / epidemiology
  • Bacterial Infections* / prevention & control
  • Biomedical Research / economics
  • Community-Acquired Infections
  • Cross Infection* / economics
  • Cross Infection* / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection* / prevention & control
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Industry / economics
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial* / drug effects
  • Food Industry
  • Humans


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents