• Logo for Uppsala University

Antibiotic Resistance: the Silent Tsunami

Understand antibiotic resistance and what actions are needed to address this increasingly serious global health threat

10,511 enrolled on this course

From Pexels - an image of some pills
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

The introduction of the first antibiotic in the 1940s marks a true turning point in human history. For the first time, once deadly infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and bloodstream infections, became manageable health problems and new horizons for modern medicine were defined. The marketing of other antibiotics soon followed, and as a result of their initial success, bacterial infections were considered to be permanently defeated.

Explore the rise of antibiotic resistance

However, misuse of antibiotics worldwide has eroded their efficacy and antibiotic-resistant bacteria rapidly emerge and spread across the globe. At the same time, the pipeline of new antibiotics is now almost dry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that we have arrived at a point where the pandemic of antibiotic resistance has become a global health crisis. It is a silent tsunami that, without a sound, roars over the world and crumbles down the pillars upon which modern medicine is built. More than anything, this situation requires immediate action and we all need to share the responsibility for preserving antibiotics for current and future generations.

Understand antibiotic resistance and how to take action

This free online course introduces the concepts of antibiotic resistance and what actions are needed to meet this global health threat.

Over the four weeks, you will learn about the mechanisms behind the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, gain insight into the current situation, and take part of real-life stories told by patients, doctors, and other experts.

This knowledge will help you to understand what challenges we are facing, but also what preventative actions and other control mechanisms we can implement to limit the impact of antibiotic resistance on our society.

Examine the development and use of antibiotics worldwide

As we progress through the weeks, we will also discuss the modest development of new antibiotics, as well as the urgent need for innovation in the field. Finally, we will bring up the dilemma of how to simultaneously address the access to and the excessive use of antibiotics in low- and middle-income countries.

This course will give you the tools to understand how antibiotic resistance unfolds, and how it can best be managed, controlled and prevented at both the societal and individual level.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Following the discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have saved millions of lives around the world, and the average life expectancy has increased considerably. But the wealth of these miracle drugs is not only a success story. The bacteria have fought back, and today we see an alarming trend. The number of multidrug-resistant bacteria has grown dramatically over the last decades, resulting in thousands of deaths due to infections that cannot be cured. What happened? The massive use of antibiotics has stimulated bacteria to develop resistance mechanisms in order to survive. For many years, we did not know enough to take this global threat seriously. And although awareness and involvement has increased, much damage has already been done.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds Antibiotics are often prescribed unnecessarily for infections that are likely to go away without treatment. In many countries, antibiotics are also sold over the counter without a prescription from the doctor. At the same time, in many low income countries, lack of access to antibiotics actually causes more deaths than resistance. Multidrug-resistant bacteria spread within hospitals as a result of poor infection control, and also between people in the community. Bacteria know no boundaries, and extensive international travel and trade help resistance to spread from continent to continent. Antibiotic resistance does not only affect humans, but also the health of animals and the environment. It is all connected.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds The unpleasant truth is that scientists have not come up with a new class of antibiotics since 1987. And we are about to enter a new era, where many commonly used antibiotics have lost their effects. Modern medicine relies on the availability of effective antibiotics. Without them, it would be too risky to perform organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, or even common surgical procedures, such as hip replacements. Care of preterm babies would also be at higher risk for untreatable infections. Resistance is costly, both for the individual and for society. By 2050, the number of deaths due to antibiotic resistance could reach 10 million per year, and thus exceed the number of people who annually die from cancer today.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 seconds Antibiotic resistance has been considered as dangerous and deadly as terrorism and global warming. Are we heading towards a post-antibiotic era? We cannot reverse this frightening trend, but we can slow it down. And all of us need to change our behavior to once again gain the upper hand in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

What topics will you cover?

  • The discovery and history of antibiotics
  • The importance of antibiotics and consequences of emerging resistance
  • Basic mechanisms of antibiotics, bacteria and antibiotic resistance
  • Major challenges related to resistance in clinical practice, innovation, financial models and equal distribution of medicines
  • Actions that can be implemented on a societal or individual level to manage, control and prevent emergence and spread of resistance
  • Ongoing initiatives to meet this global health threat

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Assess the importance of antibiotics and the consequences of emerging resistance
  • Explore basic mechanisms of antibiotics, bacteria and antibiotic resistance
  • Reflect on major challenges related to resistance in clinical practice, innovation, financial models and equal distribution of medicines
  • Engage in activities needed to meet the threat of antibiotic resistance

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for members of the public, students, health professionals or any other experts who want to gain a broader understanding of antibiotic resistance. A glossary will be provided to help those who are new to the subject understand scientific words and concepts.

Who will you learn with?

I am a public health scientist (BSc, MPH) working at ReAct, Uppsala University, with responsibility for the development and mentoring of this course.

I am an infectious diseases physician, researcher and medical director of ReAct at Uppsala University.

Who developed the course?

Uppsala University

Uppsala University is the first university in Sweden, founded in 1477. There are about 45,000 students and 6,000 employees at Uppsala university.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLantibioticresistance to talk about this course on social media.