Overuse of antibiotics in COVID-19 patients linked to health deterioration

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Recent research presented at the ESCMID Global Congress in Barcelona has revealed that using antibiotics to treat adults hospitalized with moderate COVID-19 can actually worsen their condition.

Despite this, over 40% of such patients receive these medications. The study highlights the urgent need to use antibiotics more wisely and only when absolutely necessary.

Antibiotics are powerful drugs used to fight bacterial infections, but they’re not effective against viruses like COVID-19.

Misusing antibiotics can lead to antimicrobial resistance, one of the world’s top public health threats. This occurs when bacteria evolve to resist the effects of antibiotics, making infections harder to treat.

Dr. Anette Friedrichs and her team from University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Germany investigated the use of antibiotics in 1,317 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Their findings showed that 467 of the 1,149 patients with moderate symptoms of COVID-19 were given antibiotics typically used for respiratory infections. Surprisingly, only 11 of these patients had a confirmed bacterial infection that would justify antibiotic use.

The symptoms of severe COVID-19 can mimic those of a bacterial infection, making it tricky for doctors to diagnose and decide on the appropriate treatment.

This often leads to the high usage of antibiotics in these patients, even though actual bacterial superinfections are rare.

The study utilized the WHO Clinical Progression Scale to assess patients’ health over time. This scale helps track the severity of the disease and the level of medical care needed, including hospital admission, oxygen use, and intensive care.

The researchers re-evaluated the patients after 14 days to see if their condition had improved, remained stable, or deteriorated.

The results were concerning. Patients treated with antibiotics were five times more likely to experience a deterioration in their health compared to those who did not receive antibiotics. The risk was especially high for older patients, those aged 65 and above.

Dr. Friedrichs pointed out that this increased risk might be linked to the side effects of the antibiotics themselves or other unidentified factors.

She emphasized that antibiotics should only be prescribed after thorough testing for bacterial infections, such as blood and sputum cultures, and should be discontinued if a bacterial co-infection is ruled out.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us valuable lessons about the need for proper antibiotic use, especially during viral outbreaks. Overprescribing these drugs without clear benefits only contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

The study’s findings are limited to the patient data from Germany, and might not apply everywhere.

However, they underscore the importance of careful and informed antibiotic use during pandemics to avoid unnecessary complications and preserve the effectiveness of these crucial medications for the future.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and results showing zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.

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