Overuse of COVID-19 antibiotics could result in antimicrobial resistance -Health researchers

HEALTH experts have warned that the continued overuse of antibiotics especially to treat Covid-19 is a recipe for disaster for Zimbabweans who have an ongoing battle against disease burden and crippled healthcare system.

In a paper, Itai Chitungo, Tafadzwa Dzinamatira, Tinashe Nyazika, Helena Herrera, Godfreyy Musuka, and Grant Murewanhena, said the over use of the medication following the outbreak of Covid-19 is fuelling the deadly antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which is now a global health concern.

The paper titled ‘Inappropritae Antibiotic Use in Zimbabwe in the COVID-19 era: A perfect recipe for Antimicrobial Resistance’ was published by the Antibiotics Journal 2022.

When antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics are misused, abused or overused, bugs become resistant to the medicines used to fight them. It means antimicrobials become ineffective in fighting the microorganisms that cause disease and as a result, these medicines then stop working when needed the most.

“Over the years, antimicrobials and in particular antibiotics, have prevailed as the most prescribed medications for patients, when their use has not been appropriate]. Both the overuse and improper use of antibiotics (including in humans, livestock, and food production), poor infection prevention and control practices, and international travel are considered some of the leading drivers for the emergence and spread of AMR,” said Chitungo and colleagues.

“The negative consequences of increasing AMR to global health are well documented and multiple, and include limiting the treatment options for resistant pathogens responsible for significant burdens of disease. For example, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR- TB) has emerged, requiring more antibiotics, and with increased toxicity to patients and high costs.”

In the case of tuberculosis, Chitungo and colleagues said even extreme drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) has been documented, which has serious global health implications.

“The absence of a standard treatment regimen for COVID-19, combined with the lack of laboratory facilities for testing in resource-limited countries, caused some nations to adopt empirical approaches to antimicrobial prescription and use, leading to the rampant use of antimicrobials such as azithromycin doxycycline, and ceftriaxone to treat and manage COVID-19 patients,” they argued.

“Some studies also indicated that azithromycin had the potential to disrupt viral replication meaning some members of the public are at a risk of suffering from infections without any useful remedies.

Other studies have also shown that AMR could claim the lives of more people in the future compared to known top killer diseases like HIV and cancer. More than 1, 2 million people died of AMR in 2019 globally, higher than 863 873 recorded Aids related deaths.

AMR deaths were also higher than the annual 700 660 recorded for breast cancer while malaria also accounted for fewer deaths at 643 381.

Chitungo and colleagues concluded that AMR poses a major threat to human health around the world and low resourced countries like Zimbabwe are likely to suffer if deliberate measures are not taken to invest in laboratories  and local production of medicines.



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