COVID-19 and the Story of the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis


Before the pandemic, health experts had already cautioned against an antibiotic resistance crisis due to drug overuse. However, coronavirus only worsened it, causing hospitalizations and deaths, as per CDC reports. Deaths and infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant bacteria increased by 15% from 2020 compared to 2019. It also led to a growth of a Carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter type of bacteria by almost 78% in a year that infects lungs, wounds, urinary channels, and the blood. According to Antibiotic Resistance Project’s MD & Director David Hyun, the condition of antibiotic resistance makes it challenging to treat infections as viruses, fungi, and bacteria become resistant to the drugs that kill them.

Understanding antibiotics briefly

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections by killing or preventing them from growing. They can be available as pills, liquids, creams, ointments, or injections, which one can consume through the mouth, inject into a vein, or apply to the skin. Different antibiotic medications target different bacteria. However, some can treat a wide variety of infections, while others are only effective against a few specific types. Taking the right antibiotic for the condition you are treating is essential. Common side effects of antibiotics include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash. These are usually mild and go away. However, some have serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, kidney damage, or life-threatening infections. 

According to MyBioSource, millions of American patients use prescription antibiotics every year. 

Understanding antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem worldwide. When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, drugs no longer effectively kill them, leading to the risk of developing severe health problems. One reason for this is that bacteria tend to mutate or change over time. When this happens, the antibiotics may not work on them. Another reason can be bacteria sharing their resistance genes with other bacteria when exposed to antibiotics. When people take antibiotics unnecessarily, bacteria get a chance to mutate and become resistant. Then situations like overuse of antibiotics can also be a factor. During the pandemic, many people suffered from antibiotic-resistant-led sickness and deaths. The experts said that overusing antibiotics contribute to developing resistance.

The reason behind the current surge in antibiotic resistance

In the earlier days of the pandemic, the healthcare facilities didn’t have proper treatment for COVID. So, the doctors mainly administered antibiotics to the hospitalized patients to manage their conditions. The reports suggest that almost 80% of the people in the hospital got antibiotic medicines in October 2020 when they were down with coronavirus. A tiny number of those had bacterial problems. The experts say that the high use of antibiotics increases the risk of appearance of antibiotic resistance in an individual. More precisely, stronger doses can push this likelihood more toward reality. COVID patients had to stay in hospitals for a long time than others. They also had frequent invasive therapies, including ventilators and catheters, leading to the growth of pathogens and infections. 

You can think of other contributing factors also. However, the health experts inform that frequent handwashing and disinfecting of hands may not be responsible for this. They don’t categorize hand sanitizers, wipes, and others as antibiotics.

The most vulnerable group to antibiotic resistance

The CDC data reveals that over 29K people faced deaths from antimicrobial-resistant infections in 2020. Almost 40% had this disease in the hospital, and others developed the condition in nursing homes and other healthcare environments. The healthcare leaders warn that those with weak immunity are most susceptible to antibiotic-resistant infections and can suffer severe illness. Others include newly born babies because their immunity is yet to develop. People with chronic conditions also have to beware. On the other side, healthy individuals don’t need to worry about this. But it doesn’t mean they are immune to this. These infections tend to spread.

The ways to deal with antibiotic resistance crisis

There is a need to educate the public and medical professionals about using proper antibiotics for a specific type of condition and avoiding it entirely if unnecessary. The antimicrobial stewardship programs should be available at nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, urgent care facilities, dental offices, and others. Similarly, patients have to be aware of what they use and how. If they fall sick, they can talk to their physician about when they should take antibiotics and how. Essentially, they don’t need to hesitate to ask about anything that comes to their mind regarding its usage.

Your health is everything. So make an informed decision, for it is always better than doing things on whims or without proper knowledge. COVID has already affected us at multiple levels. One has to protect their well-being more than ever. And this should happen naturally. You don’t have to feel bothered or stressed about it. Instead, keeping an open mind will allow you to examine your options well, and you can do what is in the best interest of your health.


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