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The Pandemic Within the Pandemic

Globally, antibiotic use in hospitals has surged since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and over-the-counter sales, legal in many countries, have soared. This is further fueling the global crisis of antimicrobial resistance, as bacteria evolve and become immune to these drugs.

NAIROBI – Fear of COVID-19 is driving increased over-the-counter (OTC) sales and in-hospital prescriptions of antibiotics – and fueling a silent pandemic in its wake.

Globally, antibiotic use in hospitals has surged since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though studies show that only 8% of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 also have an infection requiring antibiotics, more than 70% receive them. In addition, many people worried about possible or actual COVID-19 symptoms, and alarmed by global reports about the pandemic, have turned to buying antibiotics without seeing a health-care worker.

This is further fueling the global crisis of antibiotic resistance, as bacteria evolve and become immune to these drugs. We must move quickly – with international policy, national laws, and local action – to control what the World Health Organization has identified as one of the ten leading health threats to humanity.

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