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Resistance to antibiotics

Some bacteria can cause infections. To recover from the infection we sometimes need antibiotics. A major disadvantage of the use of antibiotics is that bacteria can become insensitive (resistant) to them. The more often antibiotics are used, the greater the chance that bacteria will become resistant to them. Infections with resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat. Therefore it is important that antibiotics are only used when there is a good reason for their use.

RIVM monitors antibiotic resistance in The Netherlands and charts how often people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It does this by carrying out various monitoring studies at hospitals, nursing homes and other care institutions.


New national study

In 2013 RIVM worked on an additional national system aimed at providing an improved insight into the source of the resistance and the ways in which resistant bacteria spread. This system looks not only at the outside but also at the inside of the bacterium (DNA). The DNA shows the code for the characteristics   of the bacterium on the outside (phenotype) . However, there may be minor differences in the DNA code that are not clearly visible on the outside. It is precisely by using these minor differences that we can see clearly where the bacterium originates and how it spreads, for example to other hospitals. We can also look at whether the same bacterium occurs in cattle farming. Antimicrobial resistance  also ooccurs in animals and there is the risk of the bacteria spreading, both from animal to animal and from animals to humans. If we know where resistant bacteria occur, we can intervene quickly and prevent them from spreading.

Trial period

At the moment this system is still undergoing trials and only the MRSA bacterium is being studied. Five hospitals are taking part in the study. The system is expected to be opened up to other hospitals and other bacteria at the end of 2014. The hospitals can view their own data in the system database.

The main focus of this study for us – in collaboration with other parties – is to be able to combine the various data relating to treatment, location, etc. so that we can spot trends and increases in antimicrobial resistance and have a better overview of the situation in The Netherlands.

More information
Antibiotics resistance
Animation: why do some antibiotics fail?