At present people are afraid of contacting even a common flu due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is because our society harbours fears that a common cold may manifest to COVID-19 or it will be early symptoms of that.
Therefore, some people are willing to take antibiotics in order to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus. But, the truth is that taking antibiotics is useless as a cure for this viral infection. Antibiotics are useless unless the condition has manifested to secondary bacterial pneumonia. World Health Organization (WHO) also does not recommend antibiotic therapy for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 unless the patient shows signs and symptoms of a bacterial infection. This is because COVID-19 is caused by a virus and antibiotics do not fight virus infections. However, in hospitals, sometimes physicians will use antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections; which can be a complication of COVID-19 in severely ill patients. Research studies show that during this pandemic there are mounting concerns regarding unnecessary antibiotic use and the potential impact of COVID-19 on antimicrobial resistance. Therefore this article is aimed at reviewing the negative impacts of antimicrobial resistance due to over usage of antibiotics; taken without getting proper advice from physicians’ during this COVID-19 outbreak.
WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics to prevent or cure COVID-19. This is because still there is no medicine or vaccine discovered to fight the pandemic
What is this COVID-19 infection?
COVID-19 is the infectious virus disease caused by the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which attacks the respiratory system. The incubation period (which is the time between exposure to the virus and symptom onset) for COVID-19 is thought to extend up to 14 days, while a median time of 4-5 days from exposure to symptoms onset. SARS-CoV-2 infection illness severity can be categorised into several groups namely Asymptomatic (patients who don’t develop symptoms), Pre-symptomatic (patients not yet symptomatic), Mild Illness, Moderate Illness, Severe Illness and Critical Illness. Moreover, some studies have found that 01 in 07 patients hospitalised with COVID-19 has developed a dangerous secondary bacterial infection.
There is some evidence suggesting that multidrug- resistant bacteria are among the pathogens that are thought to be responsible for the development of these secondary infections
WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics to prevent or cure COVID-19. This is because still there is no medicine or vaccine discovered to fight the pandemic. The immune system is the best defence system since it supports the body’s natural ability to defend against pathogens. Therefore, the majority of people when infected with a mild or moderate illness decide to adopt self-care management methods such as resting, getting adequate sleep and nutritious foods and consuming enough fluids in order to speed up recovery. This system helps boost the immune system. However, when the body encounters viruses for the first time the immune system cannot function properly. As a result illnesses can be occurred.
Development of Secondary Bacterial Infection in COVID-19 Patients
Emerging evidence suggests that the number of patients with COVID-19 and diagnosed with bacterial co-infections are increasing. This condition can be associated with worse outcomes. This is because secondary bacterial infections establish easily in patients who suffer from a viral induced infection of the lungs. This happens due to several reasons such as an altered immune response, reduced clearance of mucus and increased attachment of bacteria to epithelial cells.
There is some evidence suggesting that multidrug- resistant bacteria are among the pathogens that are thought to be responsible for the development of these secondary infections. Some studies have indicated that the extensive usage of antibiotics during past severe acute respiratory syndrome and the Coronavirus led to increases in the prevalence of multidrug-resistant bacteria. This could reduce the efficacy of treatments administered to patients. Because, the increasing number of multidrug-resistant bacteria and our decreasing capacity to eliminate them will only push us more to become vulnerable to bacterial infections and also weaken us during
Therefore, there is no requirement to overuse different kinds of antibiotics without obtaining advice from a physician. We need to keep in mind that antibiotics do not have ability to cure the COVID-19 infection. The drug will not offer a cure unless it manifests to secondary bacterial pneumonia. The overuse of antibiotics negatively effects treatment of secondary bacterial infection due to occurrence of antibiotic resistance.
(The writer holds a MSc. Degree in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry from the University of Kelaniya and a BSc. degree in Food Production and Technology Management from the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka)