Coronavirus and antibiotics. What you need to know

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World Antibiotic Awareness Week takes place on November 18-24. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on how antibiotics are used by doctors and patients. We figure out what has changed and how it can threaten.

Antibiotic consumption rises during a pandemic

Antibiotic consumption is on the rise worldwide due to the pandemic. In Russia, their sales in the first nine months of 2020 have grown by 15% over the same period last year. Experts believe this is due to the fact that the Ministry of Health has included several antibacterial drugs in the recommendations for the treatment of COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health clarified when you can take antibiotics for COVID-19

Prescribing antibiotics to patients with coronavirus is justified only if there are clear signs of a bacterial infection, said Roman Kozlov, chief freelance specialist in clinical microbiology and antimicrobial resistance of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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People do not always prescribe antibiotics to themselves for viral infections. Doctors have been prescribing them “just in case” for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic contributes their contribution to this new phenomenon. Patients with severe coronavirus infection are likely to receive extra antibiotics. For example, in China, at the beginning of a pandemic, these drugs treated at least half of these patients.

Antibiotics are prescribed not only for those infected with coronavirus

In the pandemic, additional factors have emerged that may stimulate unnecessary antibiotic use.

For fear of contracting the coronavirus, people have become less likely to visit dentists. As a result, the number of purulent infections of the maxillofacial area increased. In the UK, the number of antibiotic prescriptions given by dentists is therefore has grown at 60%.

Experts suggestthat the widespread use of telemedicine during a pandemic could also lead to an increase in antibiotic prescriptions. One study showedthat at a distance, doctors prescribe unnecessary antibacterial agents to children more often than during a personal visit.

Why is increasing antibiotic use dangerous?

The rise in antibiotic use is one of the drivers of the emergence and worsening of antibiotic resistance. According to WHO, antibiotics have become less effective in fighting bacterial infections every year dies about 700 thousand people. You can learn more about this problem and how everyone can take part in the fight against it from our thematic material.

How everyone can fight antibiotic resistance

Humanity is moving towards a post-antibiotic era, when infections that today seem to us fearless will again be able to kill people almost without hindrance.

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In the short term, inappropriate use of antibiotics carries the usual risks associated with their side effects. These include allergies, digestive disorders, and organ disorders that are usually reversible.

Is an antibiotic even needed for a viral infection?

Antibiotics are capable of destroying only bacteria; they have no effect on viruses. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the appointment of antibiotics for respiratory viral infections is unjustified. 75% of unnecessary antibiotics doctors appoint it is with them.

A bacterial infection can join a viral infection and make it more difficult. In such cases, antibiotics may indeed be needed. It is known that bacterial infections were a common complication of viral pneumonia during H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009 and meet during pandemic COVID-19.

What do COVID-19 guidelines and science say?

UpToDate Evidence-Based Health Information Resource indicatesthat, most likely, a bacterial infection does not always join coronavirus pneumonia. Therefore, experts do not recommend routinely prescribing antibiotics, but only when there are signs of a bacterial infection.

According to Russian recommendations, antibiotic therapy is prescribed if convincing signs accession of a bacterial infection. At the same time, the document provides for the preventive prescription of antibiotics for COVID-19 for diabetics.

With a mild course of the disease on an outpatient basis, antibiotics are not needed. You can find out about which medications you can really take from our article. The decision to take an antibacterial drug should only be made by a doctor.

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