Superbugs were already on the rise. The pandemic likely made things worse.
Public health experts are concerned that misuse and overuse of antibiotics during the pandemic could exacerbate another ongoing crisis: antibiotic resistance, where pathogens like bacteria and fungi evolve to evade powerful drugs designed to destroy them.
More than 750,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections annually, and that number is expected to reach 10 million by 2050. In the United States alone, antibiotic- resistant microbes cause more than 2.8 million infections and over 35,000 deaths annually.
Now, overuse of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic may be making the problem worse. In the early months of the pandemic, when COVID-19 patients showed up with coughing, fever, shortness of breath, and their chest X-rays revealed white spots—lung inflammation resembling bacterial pneumonia—many were prescribed antibiotics. In the U.S., for instance, more than half of the nearly 5,000 patients hospitalized between February and July 2020 were prescribed at least one antibiotic within the first 48 hours of admission.
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