Free course

Understanding antibiotic resistance

Free statement of participation on completion

Have you ever been prescribed a course of antibiotics by your doctor to treat a bacterial infection? Did you wonder how they worked? It’s likely that, provided you completed the course prescribed by your doctor, the antibiotics successfully treated your infection. But what if the bacteria causing your infection couldn’t be treated with antibiotics? This situation is faced by an increasing number of people and in the UK at least 5000 a year die from infections that can’t be treated with currently available antibiotics. But what makes bacteria resistant to infection, what is a ‘superbug’ and what are scientists doing about the problem?

This free badged course, Understanding antibiotic resistance, will introduce you to the science behind the problem of antibiotic resistance. You will learn about the history of antibiotics, what they are and how they work. You will learn how antibiotic resistance develops and spreads and look at the issues surrounding antibiotic resistance. Finally, you will look at some of the cutting edge ways that scientists are trying to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance, from promoting good hygiene to developing new antibiotics from the soil.



Although this is an introductory course to antibiotic resistance, it assumes that you have a basic understanding of DNA and proteins. If you are unfamiliar with these concepts you might want to try our free OpenLearn course What do genes do? or listen to our set of audios at DNA, RNA and protein formation.

Enrolling on the course will give you the opportunity to earn an Open University digital badge. Badges are not accredited by The Open University but they're a great way to demonstrate your interest in the subject and commitment to your career, and to provide evidence of continuing professional development.

Once you are signed in, you can manage your digital badges online from My OpenLearn. In addition, you can download and print your OpenLearn statement of participation - which also displays your Open University badge.

This OpenLearn science course is produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education325, the educational arm of The Exilarch's Foundation.


Earn this free Open University digital badge if you complete this course! The badge can be displayed, shared and downloaded as a marker of your achievement. The badge is awarded for completing the course and passing the quizzes.

You can start this course right now without signing-up. Click on any of the course content sections below to start at any point in this course.
If you want to be able to track your progress, earn a free Statement of Participation, and access all course quizzes and activities, sign-up.

Course content