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Antimicrobial resistance

The ability of a micro-organism to grow or survive in the presence of an antimicrobial at a concentration that is usually sufficient to inhibit or kill micro-organisms of the same species.


Persons with a weakened immune system. This includes those with AIDS and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.


A group of medicines including antibiotics, anti-viral and anti-fungal medicines. These are used to treat infections by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. 


A communicable disease caused by bacteria. It affects millions of people around the world and can be cured by antibiotics, but increasingly the pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to the most widely used antibiotics.



A unicellular organism that lacks a membrane bound nucleus or any other membrane bound organelle.

Eukaryotic cells

Cells that make up animals, plants, fungi and protista. They are three-dimensional, membrane-bound sacs containing cytoplasm, a nucleus and a range of membrane-bound organelles.


Protozoa are one-celled animals


Single-celled organism. Has a cell wall, cell membrane, cytoplasm. Its DNA is loosely-coiled in the cytoplasm and there is no distinct nucleus


A list of often difficult or specialised words with their definitions.


The smallest of living organisms. Viruses are made up of a ball of protein that contains a small amount of the virus DNA. They can only reproduce after they have infected a host cell


Fungi (singular fungus) are either uni-cellular, as in yeasts, or multi-cellular, as in mushrooms, toadstools and moulds. Fungi have a nucleus, cytoplasm and a cell wall

Antimicrobial Resistance

Infectious diseases cause millions of deaths globally every year. Microorganisms that cause infectious diseases include bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa.

These microorganisms all differ in size and structure. One key difference between bacteria and fungi is that bacteria are prokaryotic and fungi are eukaryotic. For more information on this have a look at pathogens and the immune system.

Bacteria can cause a range of infections including tonsillitis (usually caused by Streptococcus pyogenes) and tuberculosis (caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis).

Fungal infections range from less serious athlete's foot (caused by Trichophyton rubrum) to life threatening invasive candidiasis (a bloodstream infection caused by Candida). Usually only immunocompromised patients develop life threatening fungal infections.

Antimicrobial medicines treat a range of infections- they are vital in today’s society. Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 700,000 people died due to antimicrobial resistance. If nothing changes, by 2050 antimicrobial resistance will result in 10 million deaths per year. Antimicrobial resistance is a huge threat to global health - we must take action!


This resource will help you to understand:

  • What antimicrobials are and how they work.
  • How antimicrobial resistance develops.
  • The mechanisms and consequences of resistance.
  • How antimicrobial resistance is being tackled.
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) shown under scanning electron micrograph

Click to download the key word summary and one-page summary shown below.

Key word summary One-page summary
Key word summary
One-page summary

How to use this site

There are a number of interactive features in this e-source:

  • A glossary of terms: any word with a glossary entry is highlighted like this. Moving the mouse over the highlighted word will show a definition of that word.
  • Quick questions: at the end of most pages or sections there is a question or set of quick questions to test your understanding.
  • Animations: most of the animations can be expanded to full screen size, ideal for showing on an interactive whiteboard. The animations will play all the way through or can be viewed one section at a time.
  • Downloads: Teachers can download individual diagrams, animations and other content from the Download Library area of the website. Terms and Conditions apply.