5 Things You Should Know About Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Covid-19

by Lillian Whitaker

▼ FACT #1: Antibiotics should not be used to treat Covid-19

There are no antibiotics that can treat Covid-19 because Covid-19 is caused by a virus, not bacteria. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and do not work against viruses.

▼ FACT #2: The misuse of antibiotics, such as to treat Covid-19, can lead to an increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) change over time and no longer respond to the medicines that once treated them. When we use antibiotics, some bacteria die but resistant bacteria can survive and even multiply. The overuse of antibiotics makes resistant bacteria more common. Therefore, taking an antibiotic when you have a virus does not treat the disease and can actually raise the risk for antibiotic resistance.

▼ FACT #3: Antibiotics are only recommended for use in Covid-19 patients if there is secondary bacterial infection.

A secondary bacterial infection is when a patient has a bacterial infection in addition to a viral infection. Antibiotics have also been used in cases where healthcare providers provided immediate treatment for Covid-19 patients before diagnosis because their symptoms seemed like a bacterial infection. 70% of Covid-19 patients in hospitals received antibiotics despite a low number of bacterial infections among these patients.

▼ FACT #4: Guidelines such as travel restrictions, social distancing and handwashing put into place during the Covid-19 pandemic are useful in AMR prevention.

The increased handwashing and social distancing, decreased international travel, and masks during the Covid-19 pandemic have limited the number of people getting and spreading infections. Fewer infections decreases the need for the prescription and use of antibiotics, which plays an important role in AMR prevention.

▼ FACT #5: Covid-19 has affected antibiotic stewardship programs in hospitals.

Antibiotic stewardship is the effort to measure and improve how antibiotics are prescribed by clinicians and used by patients. These programs were created to push for better treatment of infections by monitoring and advising healthcare providers on antibiotic prescription and use. With the increase in prescriptions of antibiotics to patients during Covid-19 and the limited hospital resources, less focus has been placed on these regulations.

For more information on AMR, please visit our AMR page .

This resource was created with support from Pfizer Inc.


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