The Next Pandemic Is Here and Being Ignored

The Next Pandemic Is Here and Being Ignored by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Antibiotic resistance (AR) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) took a backseat to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it hasn’t gone away. It remains “one of the biggest public health challenges of our time,” as even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admits.1

While antibiotic resistance refers to bacteria resistant to antibiotics, antimicrobial resistance is a broader term used to describe resistance to drugs among a variety of microbes, including parasites, viruses and fungi.2

AMR has been declared one of the top 10 global public health threats to humanity,3 but it rarely makes front page news, especially now that COVID has entered the arena.

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Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic — and its unprecedented promotion of hand sanitizer, antimicrobials and disinfectants — made AMR worse,4 but it continues to overshadow the growing threat of AMR, which will likely surpass the number of COVID-19 deaths by at least threefold — annually — by 2050. As noted by NewStatesman:5

“The scary thing is, [AMR is] insidious and silent. The latest figures suggest AMR will cause over 10 million deaths per year by 2050. This is more than deaths from cancer and diabetes combined, and triple the current Covid-19 death toll of 3.4 million deaths worldwide since 2019.”

Antimicrobial Resistance Increased During COVID-19 Pandemic

While the world stopped due to COVID-19, the use of antimicrobial agents — for disinfecting surfaces and public spaces and treating patients — increased. The high rates of antimicrobial agent usage in COVID-19 patients are now being blamed for a rapid rise in multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs), including:6

Extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae

Carbapenem-resistant New Delhi metallo-β-lactamase (NDM)-producing Enterobacterales
Acinetobacter baumannii Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
Pan-echinocandin-resistant Candida glabrata Multitriazole-resistant Aspergillus fumigatus

In many cases, COVID-19 patients have presented with secondary infections with multidrug-resistant organisms. Fungal co-infections in COVID-19 patients are also common, as is antibiotic treatment, with one report from China suggesting that more than 70% of COVID-19 patients received antibiotics.7

Other research suggested 84.7% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients received intravenous antibiotic therapy, while a report published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy stated that up to 95% of COVID-19 patients in hospitals are prescribed antibiotics.8

As for why so many patients were excessively treated with antibiotics, despite COVID-19 being caused by a virus (SARS-CoV-2), researchers suggested that co-bacterial fungal or secondary infections were only part of the reason. Others included:9

  • Since the symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough and fever, may also occur in bacterial pneumonia “clinicians empirically add a broad-spectrum antibiotic despite the suspicion of a viral origin”
  • Anxiety and uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and an absence of effective SARS-CoV-2 treatments potentially drove “widespread and excessive prescription of antibiotics”

Multiple reports point to increased AMR during the pandemic. For instance, incidence of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales colonization increased from 6.7% in 2019 to 50% in March to April 2020.10

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