The Problem

Antibiotics are becoming ineffective. Just this year, hundreds of thousands of people across the world have died from bacterial infections that antibiotics have no impact on. Sweden has escaped relatively lightly, but antibiotic resistance is a growing concern here too.

The discovery of antibiotics in the 1920s came as a revolution in medicine. Suddenly, it was possible to save the lives of people who would otherwise have died from bacterial infections. Since then, we have become over-reliant on the lasting power of antibiotics. And we have squandered them all over the world. People have been treated with antibiotics for illnesses which they can recover from just as easily on their own. Healthy animals have been treated with antibiotics as a preventive measure. And pharmaceutical companies have released antibiotics into the environment during the manufacturing process.

No effect on resistant bacteria

Overuse has led to disease-causing bacteria becoming resistant to medicines. Resistance is bacteria’s natural method of adapting to its environment in order to survive. If disease-causing bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, it is more likely that an infection will take longer to treat or that treatment will ultimately be unsuccessful. In the worst cases, the patient may die from the infection.

A major threat to human and animal health

Antibiotic resistance is now a growing public health problem. In some countries, there are bacteria that are resistant to almost all antibiotics, and hundreds of thousands of people are dying as a result. There is a growing problem in Sweden too. Advanced modern healthcare relies on antibiotics that work, for example during surgery or chemotherapy or in intensive care. Antibiotics are also needed in veterinary medicine to cure sick animals.

Global impact

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread like other bacteria – everywhere in the world. This means that they can be transmitted between humans but also via animals, food and throughout our environment. They spread globally through travel and trade. Bacteria can also spread antibiotic resistance by exchanging resistance with each other. Resistance can thus be transmitted between different strains of bacteria, but also between different bacterial species. The more antibiotics we use, the faster resistance will grow.

No simple solution

There is currently no simple solution to this problem. For example, we cannot stop the spread of resistant bacteria completely. If future generations are to have access to effective antibiotics, there needs to be action from many different sectors in society in every country in the world. Find out more about what needs to be done.