Antibiotic use spikes amid COVID-19 hospitalizations

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs threaten the very existence of our planet. We’re in a perpetual war, a war without and a within. The biggest enemy in the war against antibiotic resistance is within us. Our collective intellect versus our fearful hearts. We’re afraid and our fear leads us to treat with antibiotics.”- Dr. Charles Shanley, TEDx Detroit

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed hospital systems with severely ill patients exhibiting high fevers and acute respiratory distress stemming from the virus. In a state of desperation with limited treatment options, doctors turned to broad spectrum antibiotics to quell the virus despite their ineffectiveness. In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Teena Chopra, director of epidemiology and antibiotic stewardship at the Detroit Medical Center, estimated that more than 80 percent of arriving patients were given antimicrobial drugs creating a hospital-wide shortage of the medications. In other words, collective fear informed the indiscriminate use of antibiotics potentially resulting in widespread bacterial mutation and resistance to lifesaving drugs.

Fear-based decision making with respect to antibiotics will have disastrous consequences if left unexamined. In a recent groundbreaking report, the United Nations Ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance warned that drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and wreak havoc on the global economy if no action is taken. Ill-preparedness at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with these alarming figures create signposts for innovation to stave off inevitable catastrophes. Will we continue to succumb to fear, or will we harness our collective intellect to fashion life-saving solutions of the future?

Time will tell.