75pc coronavirus patients were given antibiotics for no reason

  • All the patients at the Khulna Medical College Hospital were administered with antibiotics

  • Some 1,216 patients were prescribed to use antibiotics for more than 10 days

  • Ceftriaxone is the most used antibiotics

Antibiotic capsulesPixabay

The unnecessary use of antibiotics spiked during the coronavirus pandemic. A study has revealed that some 75 per cent were administered with antibiotics without any specific reason. Such unnecessary use of antibiotics has put the public at risk.

A large number of studies was conducted home and abroad over the use of antibiotics during the pandemic. The extensive use of antibiotics in Bangladesh during the pandemic came up in a research article published in the journal International Society for Infectious Diseases in the second week of June.

It states although antibiotics are hardly needed in coronavirus treatment, it was used extensively in Bangladesh during the pandemic. The research was based on a survey conducted on some 3,693 coronavirus patients admitted to five hospitals – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Mymensingh Medical College and Hospital, Sylhet Shaheed Shamsuddin Ahmad Hospital, Rangpur Medical College Hospital and Khulna Medical College Hospital.

The research was focused on the amount of antibiotics used to treat the coronavirus patients who got admitted in these hospitals from July 2020 to June 2021. Apart from the hospital documents, the research also used information that came up while interviewing a number of patients. The information regarding the sensitivity of antibiotics was taken from the diagnostic reports of the patient.

BSMMU medicine department associate professor Fazle Rabbi Chowdhury was involved in the research. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, “Covid-19 is a viral disease. Although antibiotics are not effective against viral diseases, it was being used arbitrarily. We did not know about the overall scenario across the country in this regard. Therefore we took the initiative to conduct a research, because the efficacy of antibiotics is directly connected to its usage. It’s an important public health aspect.”

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The first ever coronavirus patient in Bangladesh was identified on 8 March 2020. Antibiotics had long been used extensively in the country even before the pandemic. The Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and other relevant organisations had been saying that some of the antibiotics have lost effectiveness due overuse. The use of antibiotics skyrocketed following the outbreak of coronavirus regardless of the fact that if it was needed at all.

Research results

Some 65 per cent of the patients who participated in the research were male and the rest were female. The average age of the patients was 52 years. However, the ages of the patients varied from 11 years to 110 years. Out of the 3,693 participants, 1,023 had diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory problems and heart complications.

It was found in the research that 94.4 per cent of the coronavirus patients admitted to these five hospitals under study were administered with antibiotics. However, antibiotics were needed to treat only 18.9 per cent of those patients.    

Usually antibiotics are prescribed to use for seven days at maximum. However, the research revealed that some 1,216 patients were advised to use antibiotics for more than 10 days. There was a patient who was advised to use antibiotics even for 32 days.

Analysing the information, it was learnt that some 88.3 per cent patients were administered with only a single type of antibiotic. The antibiotics which were used the most include Ceftriaxone, Co-amoxiclav, Azithromycin and Meropenem.

The Khulna Medical College Hospital came first in terms of administering patients with antibiotics. It used antibiotics to treat all of its patients. Rangpur Medical College Hospital used the least amount of antibiotics. They administered antibiotics to 88 per cent of the coronavirus patients.

The affect

Experts say antibiotics should be used as per the need. Overuse of antibiotics destroys its efficacy, which means it won’t work against the disease. As a result, the costs of the patients go up. The research didn’t include the impacts of antibiotics overuse on the patients under this study. It’s a global crisis, not Bangladesh’s alone.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a press release on 26 April that an excessive amount of antibiotics has been used during the Covid-19 pandemic across the world, which will further spread the ineffectiveness of antibiotics. Antibiotics were needed for only the eight per cent patients who were admitted to hospitals after being diagnosed with bacterial disease. Despite that, antibiotics were used grossly from a notion that if it comes to any work to treat the coronavirus patient. Antibiotics were used on three of every four coronavirus patients worldwide.

The WHO further said antibiotics didn’t play any role in recovering from Covid-19. However, it affected the Covid patients who didn’t have other physical complications.

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BSMMU pharmacology department chairman and co-author of the study professor Md Saidur Rahman told Prothom Alo, “Whimsical use of antibiotics is a dangerous tendency. It has become a habit now. All the necessary things to stop this trend, including training programmes, awareness campaigns and legislation of the required law, need to be done at once. Otherwise, it will be a threat to our health.”

* This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu