Covid-19: Excessive use of antibiotics may have worsened antimicrobial resistance

According to the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) today revealed the excessive use of antibiotics during the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that this may have worsened antimicrobial resistance (AMR) worldwide.

New data from the United Nations health agency shows that around 75% of hospitalized patients were treated with antibiotics “as a precaution”, although only 8% of them had bacterial co-infections and needed this type of medication, according to a WHO statement. .

The use of antibiotics “varied between 33% for patients in the Western Pacific region and 83% in the Eastern Mediterranean and African regions”, he says, adding that, between 2020 and 2022, prescriptions “were decreasing in Europe and the Americas, while increased in Africa”.

According to the study, in those with severe or critical illness, the highest rate of antibiotic use was recorded (global average of 81%), while in mild or moderate cases there were “important differences” between regions, with Africa having the highest use ( 79%).

The WHO classifies antibiotics into three groups, taking into account the risk of AMR and according to the AWaRe list (Access, Observation, Reserve). The study concluded that those in the second group, “with greater potential for resistance, were prescribed more frequently worldwide”, which worries the organization.

“When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits often outweigh the risks associated with side effects or antibiotic resistance. However, when they are unnecessary, these medicines do not provide any benefit and still involve risks, their use contributing to the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance”, said Silvia Bertagnolio, head of the Surveillance Unit, in the Department linked to AMR at the WHO, mentioned in the statement.

“These data draw attention to the need for improvements in the rational use of antibiotics to minimize unnecessary negative consequences for patients and populations,” he added.

This work will be complemented with a synthesis and systematic evaluation of the evidence and will be taken into account in future WHO recommendations on the use of antibiotics in patients with Covid-19, within the scope of standards for the clinical management of the disease.

The data analyzed in the study are from the WHO Global Clinical Platform for Covid-19, covering around 450 patients hospitalized due to the disease in 65 countries over a period of three years (between January 2020 and March 2023).

The conclusions will be presented at the Global Congress of the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID), which begins on Saturday and runs until April 30, in Barcelona (Spain).