WHO sounds the alarm on the misuse of antibiotics WHO sounds the alarm on the misuse of antibiotics

WHO sounds the alarm on the misuse of antibiotics

WHO sounds the alarm on the misuse of antibiotics

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of widespread and inappropriate use of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at risk.

According to the WHO, although only eight percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients actually required antibiotics due to bacterial co-infections, three in four patients were prescribed these drugs "just in case" they might be useful.

Dr Margaret Harris , a WHO spokesperson, stressed at a press conference at the UN in Geneva that the guidelines were clear from the start: COVID-19 was a viral infection, so the use Antibiotics were only recommended if there was a proven secondary bacterial infection sensitive to these drugs.

Data collected by WHO revealed antibiotic use rates ranging from 33 percent in the Western Pacific region to 83 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean and African regions. Despite a decrease in prescriptions in Europe and the Americas between 2020 and 2022, Africa saw an increase in the use of antibiotics.

The highest antibiotic use was seen among patients with severe or critical COVID-19 , reaching an average of 81 percent globally. In mild or moderate cases, usage rates varied widely by region, peaking at 79 percent in Africa.

The main risk of this inappropriate use, says Dr. Harris, is increasing antimicrobial resistance to these particular antibiotics, thereby reducing their effectiveness when actually needed to treat bacterial infections.

The WHO is also concerned that antibiotics used during the pandemic have a higher potential for antimicrobial resistance than other available drugs, thus exacerbating the AMR problem.

These findings, based on data from the WHO Global Clinical Platform for COVID-19, were presented at the World Congress of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

This study highlights the critical importance of caution in the use of antibiotics and highlights ongoing challenges in combating AMR, a global public health threat.

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