Increased antibiotics use in combating the Covid-19 pandemic will strengthen bacterial resistance and ultimately lead to more deaths during the crisis and beyond, the World Health Organization said Monday (Jun 1).
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a “worrying number” of bacterial infections were becoming increasingly resistant to the medicines traditionally used to treat them.
The UN health agency said it was concerned that the inappropriate use of antibiotics during the coronavirus crisis would further fuel the trend.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increased use of antibiotics, which ultimately will lead to higher bacterial resistance rates that will impact the burden of disease and deaths during the pandemic and beyond,” Tedros told a virtual press conference from the WHO’s Geneva headquarters.
The WHO said only a small proportion of Covid-19 patients needed antibiotics to treat subsequent bacterial infections.
The organisation has issued guidance to medics not to provide antibiotic therapy or prophylaxis to patients with mild Covid-19, or to patients with moderate illness without a clinical suspicion of bacterial infection. Tedros said the guidelines said should help tackle antimicrobial resistance while saving lives.
He called the threat of antimicrobial resistance “one of the most urgent challenges of our time”.
“It’s clear that the world is losing its ability to use critically important antimicrobial medicines,” he said.
Highlighting inappropriate usage, he said there was an “overuse” of antibiotics in some countries, while in low-income states, such life-saving medicines were unavailable, “leading to needless suffering and death”.