Increased use of antibiotics amid Covid-19 can lead to more deaths: WHO

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on June 02, 2020 Published on June 02, 2020

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) (file photo)   -  REUTERS

The World Health Organization on Monday said that the increased use of antibiotics during Covid-19 can be dangerous and can lead to more deaths.

Increased use of antibiotics in combatting the pandemic will strengthen bacterial resistance which will further cause more deaths.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to 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,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“A record number of countries are now monitoring and reporting on antibiotic resistance - marking a major step forward in the global fight against drug resistance. But the data they provide reveals that a worrying number of bacterial infections are increasingly resistant to the medicines at hand to treat them,” WHO said in a statement.

According to the data reported by countries on antibiotic resistance, WHO has witnessed a high rate of resistance among antimicrobials that are used to common infections, such as urinary tract infections or some forms of diarrhoea.

“For instance, the rate of resistance to ciprofloxacin, an antimicrobial frequently used to treat urinary tract infections, varied from 8.4% to 92.9% in 33 reporting countries,” WHO said.

The global health organization added that the increased use of antibiotics during the pandemic will add to this trend causing more issues.

“WHO is concerned that the trend will further be fueled by the inappropriate use of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence shows that only small proportion of COVID-19 patients need antibiotics to treat subsequent bacterial infections and the Organization has issued guidance not to provide antibiotic therapy or prophylaxis to patients with mild COVID-19 or to patients with suspected or confirmed moderate COVID-19 illness unless there is a clinical indication to do so,” WHO said.

Experts have recommended using clear guidelines to prevent overuse of these drugs in order to prevent strengthening bacterial resistance.

“We believe this clear guidance on the use of antibiotics in the Covid-19 pandemic will both help countries tackle Covid-19 effectively and prevent the emergence and transmission of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in the context of the pandemic,” said Hanan Balkhy, Assistant Director-General for antimicrobial resistance at WHO.

WHO further called for global support and financial a well as non-financial incentives in order to develop new antimicrobials to prevent and treat bacterial infections.

Apart from this, the health organization also called for better prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which have been “severely disrupted” during the COVID-19 pandemic, following a survey of 155 countries. "

“The results released today show that more than half of the countries surveyed have partially or completely disrupted services for the treatment of hypertension; half for treatment of diabetes and related complications; and 42% for cancer treatment, and 31% for cardiovascular emergencies,” Ghebreyesus said.

“The COVID-19 response must, therefore, be inclusive of the health-care needs of people living with noncommunicable diseases,” he added.

Published on June 02, 2020
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