Researchers investigated the effect of antibiotic use on survival in more than 2,100 hospital patients in Norway between 2017 and 2021 and found that giving antibiotics to people with common respiratory infections was unlikely to reduce the risk of dying within 30 days.
At the height of the pandemic, about 70 percent of COVID-19 patients were prescribed antibiotics in some countries, which may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections known as superbugs.
This new data, which has not been published in a medical journal, suggests that there is “significant overuse of antibiotics,” said lead researcher Dr. Maggret Garlsdatter-Hovind of Akershus University Hospital and University of Oslo in Norway.
The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has helped microbes become resistant to many treatments, something scientists consider one of the biggest threats to global health.
What did the study say about the effect of antibiotics?
The research included patients who tested positive for the pandemic through a nasal or throat swab for viral infections such as influenza or COVID-19, and those with confirmed bacterial infections were excluded. In all, 63 percent of the 2,111 patients received antibiotics for respiratory infections during their hospital stay. Overall, 168 patients died within 30 days, of whom only 22 had not been prescribed antibiotics. After accounting for factors including gender, age, disease severity and underlying diseases among the patients, the researchers found that those who were prescribed antibiotics during their hospital stay were more likely to die within 30 days than patients who did not receive antibiotics. The research team noted that people with severe disease and those already suffering from ill health are more likely to receive antibiotics and die, and said that other factors such as smoking could also play a role. Dr. Hovind comments that, given the limitations of any retrospective study like theirs, a clinical trial she recently started with her peers is necessary to determine whether patients admitted to hospital with common respiratory infections should be treated with antibiotics.
The research is scheduled to be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases next month in Copenhagen.
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