alert! Coronavirus pandemic is paving the way for the increase of super bacteria!
The heroic efforts of global researchers and health care professionals will ultimately help us control the coronavirus pandemic and reduce the rate of new infections. People ’s attention is still rightly focused on the destruction that this pandemic is causing, the devastating loss of life, and the impact on businesses and livelihoods. However, we also need to study other general crises that are affecting our health care system and predict the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on them.
One of the biggest threats facing health care systems worldwide is antibiotic resistance. The lack of effective antibiotics and the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to existing drugs have led to a crisis of antibiotic resistance.
More than 90% of people will be prescribed antibiotics at some stage of life. But prescribing antibiotics is a limited process. We do not have a steady stream of antibiotics to replace those that are no longer effective, and hardly any new antibiotics have been developed. At the same time, the bacteria have developed resistance to the commonly used antibiotics, and even to the last-used antibiotics (drugs with serious side effects, which will only be used when all other antibiotics have failed).
We have now reached a stage where infections that are resistant to all known antibiotics have appeared in hospitals around the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused large numbers of people with compromised immune systems to be admitted to hospitals, which are known to breed resistant bacteria. Because of this influx, these hospital-associated bacteria will now have a wider potential target group.
Emerging evidence shows that a large number of COVID-19 patients were diagnosed with secondary infections during hospitalization. The source and specific nature of these infections are still to be fully studied, but there is some evidence that multi-drug resistant bacteria are one of the bacteria that cause these secondary infections.
These secondary infections seem to have an impact on the survival of patients. Data from Wuhan shows that half of all COVID-19 patients who die are secondary infections. This is because many hospital-related bacteria are particularly suitable for establishing infections in people with weakened immune systems.
History shows that the mortality rate of the virus pandemic is largely affected by secondary bacterial infections. In the 1918 and 2009 pandemic influenza, a large number of people died of secondary bacterial infections rather than viruses itself.
Another factor that will have a significant impact on the antibiotic resistance crisis is the widespread use of antibiotics in patients with COVID-19.
The latest data shows that more than 90% of COVID-19 patients are also receiving antibacterial treatment. The rapid increase in the use of antibiotics, especially in hospitals, will exert a strong selective pressure on bacteria to make them resistant. This may lead to an increase in the incidence of drug-resistant infections in the months and years following the end of the pandemic.
A report published in 2016 shows that by 2050, 10 million people will be infected with drug-resistant infections each year. Given that this forecast does not take into account the devastating effects of COVID-19, it is almost certain that this timetable will have to be revised.
However, researchers are making concerted efforts to better understand the use of antibiotics in patients with COVID-19. The US Department of Defense has just launched a study to track antibiotic use and the secondary infection rate of COVID-19 patients. The results of such studies will help guide doctors when and how to prescribe antibiotics for COVID-19 patients.
According to data from the World Health Organization, 252 antibiotic drugs are undergoing preclinical development, that is, they are currently being tested on animals. Unfortunately, only 2 to 5 of these drugs will be available in the next 10 years.
One of the biggest obstacles to bringing these drugs to market is the high cost, with each drug reaching a maximum of US $ 1 billion (£ 816 million). This makes it difficult to recoup the investment and places a huge financial burden on the companies developing these drugs, many of which have closed down under pressure. By addressing this financial burden and developing new antibiotics as a global research priority, as we saw when developing the COVID-19 vaccine, we can ensure that more antibiotics under development enter the market.
It is hoped that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic can serve as a blueprint for global cooperation to respond to the antibiotic resistance crisis. As we know, this threat has the potential to weaken our health care system and medicine.
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