What you need to know about Superbugs

MSF bio lab at MSF’s Aden hospital

Yemen 2018 © Ehab Zawati/MSF

What causes antibiotic-resistant infections? 

When bacteria are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics or exposed to incomplete or suboptimal doses, those that are sensitive to the drugs are killed while the few that are resistant to them survive and become dominant.

How is MSF fighting Superbugs?

Without urgent action, simple cuts and common diseases could once again become deadly, since there won’t be effective medicines to treat them. MSF’s approach to fighting antibiotic resistance (ABR) is based on three focus areas.

Prevention: Improving infection prevention and control (IPC) standards in health facilities by implementing proper hygiene policies and procedures.

Diagnostics: Expanding access to microbiology laboratories that can accurately diagnose bacterial infections and support surveillance.

Antibiotic stewardship: Training doctors to ensure that antibiotics are not overprescribed or inappropriately prescribed and teaching pharmacists to supervise access to them. We’re also advocating for policy changes to help combat ABR.


Fall 2019: Fighting Superbugs

Where is MSF seeing antibiotic resistance? 

ABR is growing at alarming rates in countries with failing health systems and poor sanitation, and especially in regions at war. Resistance to antibiotics is especially common in places where off-the-shelf or counterfeit antibiotics are widely available.

We are working to strengthen diagnostic capacity in resource-limited and complex settings. MSF has microbiology labs in Jordan (Amman and Irbid), Iraq (Baghdad), Palestinian Territories (Gaza), Yemen (Aden), Mali (Koutiala), Niger (Madarounfa), Liberia (Monrovia), and Central African Republic (Bangui).

What's the difference between antibiotic resistance and antimicrobial resistance?

Antibiotic resistance (ABR) refers specifically to bacteria that no longer respond to commonly used antibiotics.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a broader term describing the ability of microbes— including bacteria as well as viruses and some parasites—to survive the drugs used to kill them.