Watch| WHO Expert Explains Concerns About Antibiotics and COVID-19
The World Health Organisation's weekly show Science in 5 brings together some of the biggest scientists, experts and doctors who are working on the coronavirus to educate on the various aspects of the disease, the pandemic, vaccines and treatments.
The show is hosted by WHO's head of strategy, department of communications, Vismita Gupta-Smith. Do listen to Dr Hanan Balkhy, WHO Assistant Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistence who helps us learn about antibiotics and COVID-19
Why are antibiotics important?
Antibiotics are therapies. They are agents that we use to treat infections. They could be for treatment for simple infections like an infection in the figure from a cut or an injury or infections of people who are in the hospital. Basically, antibiotics are the reason why we have modern medicine today and we can do very complex surgical interventions and save lives.
Explain antibiotics resistance and why we should care about it.
So, antibiotics resistance s a characteristic of bacteria themselves, not of the humans. A lot of people confuse the two. So, a bacteria, which is a living agent, it has one aim, which is survival. So, it will do whatever it can to change its genetic material to not become susceptible to the antibiotic. So, resistance, in simple terms, is when the bacteria no longer is killed by the antibiotic. The reason why is concerning to us if we end up with no antibiotics to treat infections, we will basically be losing significant advances in healthcare as we have it today.
Why are antibiotics and COVID-19 a concern?
Again, there is a lot of misunderstanding or not the appropriate use of antibiotics taking place. And, the more the bacteria are exposed to antibiotics through treatments that are unnecessary, they will develop resistance. And with COVID, there’s a very large expansion in the number of patients with respiratory disease where patients might feel the urge to take an antibiotic, while in reality COVID is not a bacteria it’s a virus. The use of these antibiotics will not treat them, but it will create resistance among bacteria that already exists in our bodies. So it’s a very complex scenario, but the bottom line is antibiotics should not be prescribed unless there’s a clear medical indication for them.
What is it that the public needs to know about COVID-19 and antibiotics?
It is very important to realise that we do not need to give antibiotics to patients who are isolated with COVID-19 in their homes because they have mild disease. And, to only be receiving antibiotics if they are significantly ill, where the healthcare provider is suspicious on top of the COVID-19, the patient has a bacterial infection. This needs to be done by the prescription of a healthcare provider.
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