Antibiotics are one of the most important discoveries of modern medicine, saving millions of lives by treating infections caused by bacteria.
Although antibiotics kill most bacteria, some will survive. The bacteria that survive have developed resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when the bacteria cannot be killed by an antibiotic.
Using antibiotics when they are not needed can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics will not kill resistant bacteria and, even worse, resistance can be transferred from one bacterium to another. Antibiotics are specific and are only effective against bacterial infections.
It is important to remember that it is the bacteria that are resistant, not the individual. Even very healthy people who have never taken an antibiotic can become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That is why antibiotic resistance is a public health issue: the public needs to use antibiotics wisely so that individuals are not adversely affected.
With the exception of pneumonia, most respiratory tract infections resolve on their own, without antibiotics. Infections that are due to viruses include colds, influenza (the "flu"), croup, laryngitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, most sore throats as well as some ear and sinus infections and do not require antibiotics.
Viruses do not need antibiotics. Although ear and sinus infections can be caused by either bacteria or viruses, bacterial infections often develop after a viral infection and usually resolve without antibiotics. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends watchful waiting as the preferred treatment for ear infections in children over the age of 6 months to see if the infection will go away on its own.
CBC-TV's The Nature of Things presents Antibiotic Hunters. This documentary travels to an ocean reef, a rainforest canopy, a frigid cave and even the mouth of a giant lizard - all in the urgent search for new antibiotics. Watch the episode.
This is a short video created by Dr. Edith Blondel-Hill, Medical Director of the 'Do Bugs Need Drugs?' program. Watch the video on the Do Bugs Need Drugs? website home page.
November 13 - 19, 2017
The World Health Organization (WHO) along with several Canadian organizations are working to promote the prudent use of antimicrobials through the use of educational resources for professionals and the public. For more information visit:
November 13, 2014
This webinar commemorates Antibiotic Awareness Week 2014 where we presented three resources designed to promote good hand hygiene practices among children and youth. This webinar highlights two interactive web-based resources, Germs Away, and Do Bugs Need Drugs along with the book "William! Won't You Wash your Hands?” This webinar is of particular interest to those working to support infection prevention and control education among children, youth and parents.