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article imageAntimicrobial resistance and COVID-19: Implications

By Tim Sandle     Feb 17, 2021 in Science
A new research paper suggests that COVID-19 will have an ongoing impact on the emergence, transmission and burden of antimicrobial resistance. What are the societal implications of this finding?
The finding from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, U.K. means that policy makers need to prepare health services to meet future leads, scientists need to continue to find new antibiotics (to combat the overall concern of antimicrobial resistance), and medics need to pay close attention to generate a complete evidence base for the shifted dynamics to help improve our preparedness and response to future pandemics.
There is a dialectic at play in terms of the relationship between the coronavirus pandemic and antimicrobial resistance, especially considering the major concerns around bacterial resistance to common antibiotics in the years leading up to the pandemic.
While the coronavirus pandemic is of major concern, it should not be forgotten that antimicrobial resistance is likely to have caused a third as many deaths as COVID-19 in 2020 (a figure estimated at 1.8 million by the World Health Organization).
On the positive side, there is the potential that people undertaking increased hand hygiene, plus decreased levels of international travel, and decreased elective hospital procedures, could reduce antimicrobial resistance pathogen selection and spread. This could at least be occurring in the short term, although how this could develop once society returns to 'normal' is less predictable.
On the negative side, it is possible humanity will see the opposite effects happening, especially if antibiotics are more widely used during the crisis (either inappropriately or to that secondary infections), especially as standard healthcare pathways break down.
The researchers conclude that the dynamics are uncertain and things could pan out in either direction. To fully understand what is happening and with the implications, the study authors request that more surveillance and analysis is performed.
The research is published in the journal eLife, where the study is titled "Antimicrobial resistance and COVID-19: Intersections and implications."
More about antimicrobial resistance, Microbiology, coronavirus
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