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A Scientific Analysis, Complexity of Antibiotics Overuse & Its Impact

Antibiotics overuse & its Impact Pre- and Post-COVID-19 Appraisal


In the realm of antibiotics, a substantial proportion of individuals are prescribed this category of pharmaceuticals to address common viral infections and associated symptoms. What many patients may not realize is that the utilization of antibiotics can lead to profoundly detrimental symptoms and, in certain instances, prove to be fatal.

Mechanism of Action of Antibiotics

Antibiotics are employed for the treatment of bacterial infections caused by gram-positive or gram-negative bacteria, such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Klebsiella, and various others. Surprisingly, more than 90% of all antibiotic prescriptions issued are utilized for non-bacterial infections. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for ailments like the common cold, bronchitis, ear infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and skin infections, among others.

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In our medical practice, we have not encountered a single patient who has received fluoroquinolone antibiotics for a confirmed bacterial infection established through laboratory tests. The majority of antibiotic prescriptions dispensed in emergency rooms or urgent care settings are distributed liberally, providing patients with a false sense of assurance that effective measures have been taken, when, in reality, they often inadvertently compromise their well-being.

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Antibiotics Overuse Before and After COVID-19

The healthcare landscape experienced substantial shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the management of urinary tract infections (UTIs). This article examines the changes in antimicrobial susceptibility for UTIs, the consequences of altered antibiotic dispensing patterns, and the awareness surrounding antimicrobial resistance in the periods before and after COVID-19. Additionally, it explores the broader implications of antibiotic overuse on public health.

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COVID-19’s Impact on UTI Treatment

Managing UTIs underwent a paradigm shift due to COVID-19. Telemedicine’s rise and reduced physical examinations posed challenges in diagnosing UTIs, leading to an increased reliance on empirical treatment based on symptoms. The pre-COVID era relied on susceptibility tests for tailored antibiotic prescriptions, but the post-COVID scenario saw challenges in obtaining susceptibility results, resulting in a shift towards empirical treatment.

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Antibiotic Dispensing Patterns

The post-COVID era observed a rise in the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics for empirical treatment, potentially contributing to antimicrobial resistance. Conversely, the prescription of narrow-spectrum antibiotics declined due to challenges in obtaining susceptibility results, raising concerns about overprescription and its associated consequences.

Healthcare Provider Education

In response to the evolving landscape, healthcare providers received additional education and training to ensure responsible antibiotic prescription. Continuing medical education programs on antimicrobial stewardship are being emphasized to combat resistance effectively.

Awareness of Antimicrobial Resistance

The heightened concern about antimicrobial resistance led to increased education for healthcare providers on responsible antibiotic prescription. Patient education focused on completing prescribed courses to prevent bacterial survival and resistance. Post-COVID, there’s a greater emphasis on surveillance and research related to antimicrobial resistance.

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Positive and Negative Effects of Antibiotic Overuse

Positive Effects:

  • Lifesaving Interventions: Antibiotics have played a crucial role in treating severe bacterial infections, saving lives.
  • Surgical Advancements: Antibiotics reduce the risk of postoperative infections, enabling complex surgical procedures.
  • Prolonged Lifespan: Availability of antibiotics has contributed to increased life expectancy by managing once-deadly infections.
  • Disease Control: Antibiotics have controlled the spread of contagious diseases, contributing to public health efforts.

Negative Effects:

  • Antimicrobial Resistance: Overuse leads to resistance, rendering antibiotics ineffective and posing a significant threat.
  • Superbugs: Antibiotic resistance creates “superbugs” resistant to multiple antibiotics, causing difficult-to-treat infections.
  • Clostridium difficile Infections: Broad-spectrum antibiotics can cause challenging-to-treat Clostridium difficile infections.
  • Allergic Reactions: Antibiotics can trigger allergic reactions, ranging from mild rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis.
  • Disruption of Microbiome: Antibiotics disrupt the body’s beneficial microbiome, leading to various health issues, including digestive problems.
  • Increased Healthcare Costs: Antibiotic resistance results in longer hospital stays, expensive treatments, and a higher economic burden.

Addressing Antibiotic Overuse:

Raising public awareness, ongoing prescriber education, improved diagnostics, antibiotic stewardship programs, and wider vaccination coverage are essential strategies to address antibiotic overuse.

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The COVID-19 pandemic significantly influenced UTI treatment, prompting changes in antibiotic dispensing patterns. The reliance on broad-spectrum antibiotics necessitates informed healthcare provider and patient actions to combat overuse and resistance. Ongoing research and surveillance are vital for adapting to the post-COVID UTI treatment landscape responsibly. Balancing the positive and negative effects of antibiotics requires collaborative efforts from healthcare providers, policymakers, and the public

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