Four Things You Should Know About Antimicrobial Resistance


August 12, 2023


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Four Things You Should Know About Antimicrobial Resistance

As we get older, our immune system weakens, making it harder for our bodies to clear common infections. Treatments for these infections have worked well in the past, but we are facing an evolving threat from microbes that are quickly adjusting to the currently used antibiotics. This makes certain infections, such as urinary tract or skin infections, more difficult to treat as they may no longer respond to medication, potentially increasing the risk of severe outcomes, like serious illness or death.

Here is what you need to know about the prevalence of hard-to-treat bacterial infections, and what the scientific community is doing to outpace antimicrobial resistance, or AMR. 

1. Antimicrobial resistance has become a leading cause of death globally.

The World Health Organization categorizes AMR as one of the top 10 global public health concerns facing humanity. AMR may potentially jeopardize healthcare providers’ ability to effectively manage common infections, including those that can occur with routine medical procedures, such as hip replacement surgery, or during a course of chemotherapy. It has been decades since an innovative class of antibiotics was discovered, and without further research into novel solutions, AMR could eventually make our currently available antibiotics ineffective.

Antimicrobials used to prevent and treat infections in humans include antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitic drugs. Resistance naturally occurs over time through genetic changes in humans or microbes. AMR can occur when using the wrong antibiotics or not completing the full course of prescribed medication.

In fact, in 2019 there were an estimated 4.95 million deaths worldwide associated with bacterial AMR.

2. Harmful strains of E. coli are growing resistant to antibiotics

Among the leading causes of AMR-related deaths are infections from a strain of E. coli capable of causing infection outside the intestinal tract. These infections are growing increasingly resistant to the usual antimicrobial treatment. Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by this strain of E. coli pose a treatment challenge to healthcare professionals and a concern for older adults, who are most susceptible to UTIs.

Further, UTIs are responsible for approximately 1-in-4 antibiotic prescriptions in the United States, and recurrent UTIs are common, especially among women.

3. Adults 60 and older are at increased risk of E. coli infection, which can progress to invasive E. coli disease (IED)

IED is one of the leading causes of sepsis, an inflammatory reaction to a bacterial infection by the body, which poses a grave risk for adults and neonates. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that untreated could lead to other complications, such as tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.

Older adults are prone to infection from E. coli. Reasons that increase the risk of infection include decreasing immunity, undergoing surgeries or other medical procedures, and living in a long-term care facility.

4. Important scientific research is underway to evaluate potential solutions to the threat of AMR

Researchers around the world are working tirelessly to help reduce or prevent AMR by evaluating novel solutions to prevent and treat the most resistant bacterial infections. Among these efforts to help combat the growing threat of AMR are the clinical programs developed by the scientists at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

Alongside new therapeutics, antibiotics, and hygiene practices, like hand-washing, vaccines have a vital role to play. One of Janssen’s clinical programs is a Phase 3 clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of an investigational preventive vaccine against E. coli infection. The trial is currently enrolling participants aged 60 years and older who have had a UTI in the past 2 years. For more information and details on how to get involved, please visit


We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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