Antimicrobial (Drug) Resistance

Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in brown surrounded by cellular debris in orange.
Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, brown) surrounded by cellular debris.

Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, brown) surrounded by cellular debris.

Credit: NIAID

Bacteria, fungi, and other microbes evolve over time and can develop resistance to antimicrobial drugs. Microbes naturally develop resistance; however, using antibiotics too often in humans and animals and in cases where antibiotics are not an appropriate treatment can make resistance develop more quickly.

Why Is the Study of Antimicrobial (Drug) Resistance a Priority for NIAID?

Antimicrobial resistance is a significant public health problem in the U.S. and around the world as infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat, especially in healthcare facilities and in people with weakened immune systems.

How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?

To address this growing problem, NIAID is funding and conducting research to better understand how microbes develop and pass on resistance genes. NIAID is also supporting the development of new and faster diagnostic tests to make it easier for doctors to prescribe the most effective drug. NIAID’s research program also focuses on ways to prevent infections, including vaccines, and developing new antibiotics and novel treatments effective against drug-resistant microbes.

Antimicrobial Resistance Threats

A number of pathogens are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and antifungals. NIAID is researching infections of growing concern to human health, including pathogens identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as urgent, serious, and concerning threats.

Read more about antimicrobial resistance threats

Antimicrobial Resistance Research Framework

In December 2019, NIAID unveiled its updated strategic approaches to address antimicrobial resistance. NIAID’s report titled “NIAID’s Antibiotic Resistance Research Framework: Current Status and Future Directions,” lays out the institute’s portfolio of basic, translation and clinical research in antimicrobial resistance and outlines innovative research approaches based on the latest scientific advances.

Learn about NIAID’s research initiatives on antimicrobial resistance

Basic Research

NIAID supports basic research to understand the biology of microbes, their behavior and how they develop resistance and cause disease.

Read more about NIAID basic research efforts


The rise of antimicrobial-resistant microbes has led to an urgent need to preserve the efficacy of current antibiotics, develop new ones and identify alternative treatment strategies. NIAID has a substantial research program to spur development of new therapeutics against drug-resistant viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi and to identify alternative approaches.

Read about the treatment strategies


NIAID supports basic, translational and clinical research on ways to prevent serious drug-resistant infections, including vaccines, monoclonal antibody therapies, and compounds that modulate innate immunity. NIAID also supports research on antibacterial resistance stewardship and infection control strategies.

Read more about research to prevent drug-resistant infections


NIAID is supporting the development of tests to rapidly diagnose infections and evaluate whether they are susceptible to particular antimicrobial drugs to ensure patients receive the appropriate treatment for their infection. 

Read about how NIAID supports the development of tests to rapidly diagnose infections

Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group

The Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group (ARLG) is composed of scientific experts from government agencies, academic institutions, and nonprofit and industry groups around the world. The ARLG oversees a clinical research network that conducts studies on important aspects of antimicrobial resistance, including testing novel therapeutics and diagnostics.

Read more about the ARLG
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