Pandemic has varying effects on antibiotic use, new studies show

Trends in antibiotic use during the pandemic vary by state, two new studies show.

Researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor led the first study, which was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Researchers reviewed data about 1,705 COVID-19 patients treated at 38 Michigan hospitals between March 13 and June 18. Nearly 57 percent of patients were prescribed early antibiotics, though 5 percent or less of patients had a bacterial infection. In some hospitals, early antibiotic use in COVID-19 patients was as high as 84 percent. 

A second study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy found monthly antibiotic use at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh (Pa.) Healthcare System dropped between March and June. Days of antibiotic therapy fell 6.5 percent monthly compared to a year prior due to the pause on elective surgeries and other nonessential procedures during the pandemic, according to researchers from the health system, the University of Pittsburgh and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

Past research has suggested that the pandemic is boosting unnecessary antibiotic prescribing. However, these findings suggest that the pandemic has influenced antibiotic use in different ways, reports the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis. Health experts said it could take several years to fully understand how COVID-19 will affect antibiotic resistance.

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