ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE

Don’t take antibiotics for Covid-19, experts warn

The disease is caused by a virus and cannot be cured by antibiotics, which treat bacteria.

In Summary

• The experts say taking antibiotics to treat Covid-19 could increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

• This would make infections harder to treat and increase the risk of the disease spread, severe illness and even death.

Health CAS Rashid Aman during the launch of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board 2020-2025 Strategic Plan at the board's offices on March 9, 2020
Health CAS Rashid Aman during the launch of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board 2020-2025 Strategic Plan at the board's offices on March 9, 2020
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Covid-19 patients or those exhibiting its symptoms should not take antibiotics to fight the infections, experts have warned.

The disease is caused by a virus and cannot be cured by antibiotics, which treat bacteria.

The experts say taking antibiotics to treat Covid-19 could increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

This would make infections harder to treat and increase the risk of the disease spread, severe illness and even death.

 “Since Covid-19 causes respiratory diseases, people who are infected or suspect that they have been infected with Covid-19 may feel the urge to take antibiotics which is unnecessary treatment in this instance,” WHO Kenya representative Rudi Eggers said.

He spoke on Wednesday during the launch of the Antimicrobial Awareness Week. This year’s theme is ‘United to Prevent Drug Resistance’.

From Wednesday to November 24, experts will create awareness of antimicrobial resistance and promote best practices among the public, health workers and policymakers.

“Using antibiotics against the virus which is not susceptible to antibiotic is one of the examples of misuse of antibiotics which can contribute to the risks of bacteria in the person’s body,” Eggers said.

A March 2016 study showed that Kenya is already experiencing high levels of antibiotic resistance.

High rates of resistance were reported for respiratory and hospital-acquired infections.

The study suggested that many antibiotics such as penicillin and contrimoxalzone are unlikely to be effective.

The Health Ministry says the Covid-19 pandemic has interrupted treatments for tuberculosis and HIV and is likely to cause drug resistance.

Vaccination services have also been affected hence could lead to a rise in overuse of antimicrobials.

Health CAS Rashid Aman said resistance to antimicrobials restricts the ability to treat diseases and derails universal health coverage plans.

“During this unprecedented period of Covid-19 pandemic there are many potential threats that could affect antimicrobial stewardship activities and drive antimicrobial resistance,” Aman said.

“For instance, studies indicate that many patients diagnosed with mild Covid-19 disease received antibiotics even when there is no accompanying pneumonia or there was no indication for this.”

The Kenya Medical Research Institute lists antimicrobial resistance as one of the most important emerging threats to global health.

Kenya can be badly hit due to unavailability of third and fourth line antimicrobials and limited resources for supportive care.

In addition, a lack of infection control plans means resistant strains introduced in healthcare facilities can spread easily from patient to patient.

Agriculture CAS Jebii Kilimo said the livestock sector has a significant role in the control of antimicrobial resistance.

Prudent use of veterinary medicine in treatment of animal diseases can enhance food and environmental safety, she said.

(edited by o. owino)