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UN: WHO expressed concern over unnecessary use of antibiotics during COVID-19

The UN health agency has said in its alert that only eight percent of the total patients admitted to hospital due to coronavirus were also found to have a bacterial infection. This can be treated with antibiotics, but three out of every four patients were given the medicine without any special need.

Antimicrobial resistance develops over time as viruses, bacteria, fungi and other parasites change. This makes antibiotics and other life-saving drugs ineffective for many types of infections.   The rational use of antibiotics is vital to prevent the emergence and spread of ‘superbugs’ – types of bacteria that have become resistant to every antibiotic.

UN agency spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris said that at no point during the pandemic did the health organisation recommend the use of antibiotics for COVID-19 treatment. “From the beginning, the advice was very clear that this is a virus. So it wasn’t like there was any kind of guideline or any recommendation that health workers should go in this direction. But people were probably facing a completely new thing, and they were looking for any remedy that they thought might be appropriate,” she said.

According to the UN health agency, 33 percent of the COVID-19 patients in the Western Pacific region were given antibiotics. At the same time, this figure was 83 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean and African region. During 2020 and 2022, there was a decrease in drug prescriptions in the Europe and America region, but there was a jump in Africa.

Last hope
Data collected by the organization shows that most antibiotics were given to seriously ill COVID-19 patients, and the global average for this is 81 percent. The use of antibiotics in the treatment of mildly or slightly more infected has been seen to vary. It was highest in the Africa region at 79 percent. The UN agency says that the most commonly prescribed drugs to cure bacterial infections are the same drugs that are most likely to increase antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

No positive effect
The World Health Organization says that no significant improvement was seen in the condition of COVID-19 infected with the use of antibiotics. Instead, the drugs could harm people who did not have bacterial infections but were still given the drugs. UN health experts stressed that the current findings suggest that antibiotic use must be rationalized so as not to have negative effects on patients and populations.