The use of antibiotics in people with COVID-19 could result in increased resistance to the drugs’ benefits among the wider population, a new study suggests.
Patients hospitalised as a result of the virus are being given a combination of medications to prevent possible secondary bacterial infections.
However, research by the University of Plymouth and Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust suggests their increased use during the pandemic could be placing an additional burden on waste water treatment works.
Writing in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, scientists say this could lead to raised levels of antibiotics within the UK’s rivers or coastal waters which may in turn result in an increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR), where bacteria become resistant to the action of antibiotics.
This would be particularly acute in receiving waters from wastewater treatment works serving large hospitals, or emergency ‘Nightingale’ hospitals, where there is a concentration of COVID-19 patients.
The findings are based on reports that up to 95% of COVID-19 inpatients are being prescribed antibiotics as part of their treatment, and concerns that such a large-scale drug administration could have wider environmental implications.