Mysterious Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance Behind COVID-19


  • Undoubtedly, global action is required for preventing COVID-19 from creating a long gloom over antimicrobial resistance.
  • WHO stated that many bacterial infections are increasingly resistant to the antimicrobials, which could lead to evolving other infectious diseases.
  • Some pharmacologist and infectious disease experts suggest that there is an urgent requirement for promoting good hygiene conditions for reducing the use of antimicrobials and preventing the spread of drug-resistant bacteria in the future.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic calls for serious need for rapid development of treatment/vaccines to reduce the number of hospitalisations and deaths caused by dangerous novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Notably, the healthcare industry has swiftly responded, and more than 100 vaccine candidates are already under development. While the use of antimicrobial medicines increased during COVID-19, they seem to be now developing the resistance, possibly resulting in deaths in some cases.

Besides, the globe continues to see daily cases of COVID-19 surpassing 100,000 per day, with more than 6.4 million cases. While, total deceased numbers are approaching 0.4 million.

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Antimicrobial resistance also termed as AMR threatens the efficient prevention as well as treatment of an endlessly growing range of infections, triggered by various microorganisms such as parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungi. As a consequence of antimicrobial resistance, the medicines turn out to be ineffective and infections remain in the body, while increasing the probability of spreading to others.

As per World Health Organization, every year, over 700,000 individuals die due to drug-resistant infections. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi causes at least 2.8 million infections and 35k deaths nationally every year.

Scientists across the globe are now probing the possibility of COVID-19 patients with excessive antibiotic doses contributing to national overuse trends.

Antimicrobial Resistance and COVID-19

Antimicrobial resistance arises when microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi develop the ability to defeat the medicines which are intended to kill them. That suggests that the microbes continue to grow and become ineffective to antimicrobials.

Antibiotic resistance, being one of the most urgent public health problems across the globe, has the potential to impact the lives of individuals at any stage, along with the healthcare, agriculture and veterinary sector.

The use of antimicrobials for COVID-19 patients has become common, while many people are on hydroxychloroquine and macrolides as preventative measures against the infection in the population.

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The resulting enhanced exposure to health care settings and invasive procedures, along with expanded use of antimicrobials, magnifies the opportunity to develop resistant against pathogens to develop and circulate. Use of antimicrobials shows minor improvement for the treatment of COVID-19, but overuse of antibiotics could lead to multi-drug resistance, which could become a cause of emerging infections in upcoming decades.

WHO has opposed the use of antibiotics in mild COVID-19 cases, while recommending these drugs for severe cases of COVID-19 where the probability of a bacterial infection and death is high.

WHO’s Warning for Antimicrobial Resistance

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) also warned against the increasing dependency of antibiotics during COVID-19 that could be dangerous and lead to more fatalities. Enhanced use of antibiotics for tackling the pandemic is expected to increase bacterial resistance which can lead to more deaths.

As per WHO, many countries across the world have contributed data that reveals disturbing rates of resistance by the use of antimicrobial drugs. The data disclosed troubling number of bacterial infections increasingly becoming resistant to the medicine traditionally used for their treatment.

Talking about the demand side, in few nations overuse of antimicrobials is reported in both humans as well as in animals. However, in most low and middle-income countries, people are not able to receive these lifesaving treatments if they need them, and it might lead to unnecessary suffering and fatalities.

In case of the supply, there is essentially slight market incentive for developing novel antibiotics and antimicrobial medicines, which has resulted in numerous market disappointments of highly promising tools in the last few years.

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High Rates of Resistance with Antimicrobials Often Used for Common Infections

According to the data reported to WHO by several countries on antimicrobial resistance, high rate of resistance has been witnessed among antimicrobials that are used to treat common infections, such as urinary tract infections or some forms of diarrhoea. For example, ciprofloxacin is an antimicrobial which is frequently used for the treatment of urinary tract infection, while WHO stated that its rate of resistance varies from 8.4% to 92.9% across 33 reporting nations.

WHO highlighted that the agency is concerned that the trend would further be driven by using the antimicrobials inappropriately during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are evidences that demonstrate that only a small proportion of COVID-19 patients require antibiotics for treatment of subsequent bacterial infections and WHO has issued guidance not to give antibiotic treatment or prophylaxis to patients who are suspected or have mild or severe COVID-19 unless there is a clinical indication to do so.

Moreover, the organization is concerned about decreasing investments and lack of innovation in the development of novel antimicrobial treatment factors that are undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections.

Micro-organisms Are Evolving & Growing Even Deadlier

Some infectious disease experts have been projecting this worst-case situation for years that micro-organisms are becoming deadlier. One long-standing threat is antimicrobial resistance, or when microbes evolve abilities to evade antimicrobials whether they be antivirals, antibiotics, anthelmintics, or antifungals.

There are not so many tools available for the treatment of drug-resistant pathogens, and these can easily transfer from one person to another. Both antimicrobial resistances, as well as viral outbreaks, spread particularly swiftly in places such as nursing homes and hospitals, where there is the close proximity of individuals with compromised immune systems.

We need to be wary of health care experts and pharmacologists that there is an urgent requirement for promoting good hygiene (regular hand wash) in home as well as in community settings. This could be one of the essential methods for reducing the use of antibiotics and avoiding the spread of drug-resistant bacteria in the forthcoming years.





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