More than 80% of Americans Are Concerned About Health Threat Posed by Antibiotic Resistance

New public opinion survey reveals bipartisan support for government action for a spectrum for initiatives to combat antibiotic resistance including incentives for research to combat antibiotic resistance
Monday, November 12, 2018
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria

Nearly two thirds of Americans (65%) say antibiotic resistance is a public health problem and a strong majority (81%) say they are concerned that antibiotic resistance will make more infections difficult or impossible to treat and even deadly, according to a national public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America in collaboration with the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA). The survey was supported in part by Pfizer Inc. Majorities across the political spectrum say the federal government should increase funding for research and public health initiatives to address antibiotic resistance – specifically 81% of Democrats, 76% of Republicans and 70% of Independents.

“Americans understand that antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ are a public health threat, and they support putting the public and private sector research continuum to work to address this intensifying health threat,” said Mary Woolley, Research!America president and CEO, said. “Americans are calling for ‘all hands on deck’ to confront AMR – the government, the private sector, health professionals, hospitals and individuals.”

Nearly three quarters (73%) of those surveyed agree that the federal government should provide incentives to encourage increased private sector investment in the development of new antibiotics, reflecting consensus among 80% of Republicans, 76% of Democrats and 63% of Independents. Some 83% of those surveyed believe pharmaceutical companies should develop more antibiotics.  The survey found that 92% agree that doctors and other healthcare professionals should only prescribe antibiotics when needed.

“Antibiotic resistance is threatening our ability to safely and effectively provide medical care to many patients, including organ and bone marrow transplants, joint replacements and other complex surgeries, cancer chemotherapy, and care of preterm infants,” IDSA President Cynthia Sears, MD, FIDSA, said. “A multipronged approach — including stewardship to protect the utility of antibiotics, incentives to spur development of new antibiotics, and investment in research and public health initiatives — will be necessary to turn the tide against antibiotic resistance. Despite a large majority indicating that health care providers should only prescribe antibiotics when necessary, we know high levels of inappropriate antibiotic use continue to occur, underscoring the need for the federal government to take more action to drive the implementation of educational and antibiotic stewardship programs.”

Survey results indicate more education is needed about appropriate antibiotic usage. Antibiotics do not have any effect on viruses, such as colds and flu, yet more than a third (37%) of those surveyed wrongly say antibiotics are effective for treating viral infections. Further, about a third (29%) would be dissatisfied if their doctor did not prescribe an antibiotic for their child’s viral infection. Also, only 57% of those surveyed are aware that even a single course of antibiotics taken when not appropriate can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.

Other findings include:

  • Only 61% of those surveyed say they are aware that bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics can be spread from person to person. 
  • More than three quarters (76%) of those surveyed say they are aware that antibiotic-resistant infections make medical procedures like surgery, organ transplants and cancer treatment much more dangerous.
  • Only 21 percent of those surveyed say that no action is needed from the federal government on antibiotic research and development at this time. 

The nationwide survey of 1,004 U.S. adults was conducted by Zogby Analytics in October 2018. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points. To view the survey, visit www.researchamerica.org/amrsurvey

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About Research!America surveys

Research!America began commissioning surveys in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America's surveys have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling. http://www.researchamerica.org.

About Research!America

Research!America is the nation's largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America is an association of more than 11,000 physicians, scientists and public health experts who specialize in infectious diseases. Our purpose is to improve the health of individuals, communities, and society by promoting excellence in patient care, education, research, public health, and prevention relating to infectious diseases. Visit www.idsociety.org.

Media Contacts

Anna Briseño
Senior Director of Communications 
571-482-2737

We have health challenges in this country that science will provide answers for if given the chance and we haven't given science that opportunity
Mary Woolley, President and CEO, Research!America