Caixin
Nov 30, 2020 06:22 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Antibiotics Misuse in Covid Treatments Could Strengthen Drug-Resistant Superbugs, Top Doctor Says

The WHO currently recommends that those with no worse than moderate symptoms of Covid-19 do not receive antibiotics.
The WHO currently recommends that those with no worse than moderate symptoms of Covid-19 do not receive antibiotics.

One of China’s top doctors has urged the medical community to guard against contributing to the rise of drug-resistant microbes while battling the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“While preventing and controlling the coronavirus, we must also pay attention to controlling antimicrobial resistance,” said Xiao Yonghong, a member of the China group at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the chief physician at a major hospital affiliated with China’s prestigious Zhejiang University. 

The comments, made last week during an online conference to mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, come as countries take a variety of measures to staunch the spread of the virus, including disinfecting public places and treating patients with existing medicines ahead of the long-awaited rollout of a vaccine. 

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when tiny disease-causing organisms like viruses and bacteria build up tolerance to the drugs used to treat them. The phenomenon can significantly reduce the effectiveness of certain medicines and is considered a major threat to public health in the 21st century. 

Xiao said medical personnel should adopt more standardized and rational decision-making processes when treating people with Covid-19 to reduce the risk of drug resistance. 

The WHO currently recommends that those with no worse than moderate symptoms of Covid-19 do not receive antibiotics as a treatment for the disease or secondary infections. 

Nonetheless, the misuse of antibiotics in coronavirus treatments appears to be widespread. The WHO previously cited studies showing that some 72% of people with mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 receive antibiotics, even though only 8% of them have bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not kill viruses like the one that causes Covid-19. 

The trend has deepened concerns that the pandemic may trigger the emergence of more drug-resistant pathogens. In June, the WHO warned that the misuse of antibiotics during the outbreak could speed up the spread of drug-resistant microbes. 

The world’s top health body’s current interim guidelines for Covid-19 stress that the disease is caused by a virus and should not be prevented or treated with antibiotics unless the patient has a concurrent bacterial infection. 

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com) 

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