Everyday a new article appears in the global media about the co-occurrence of COVID-19 and secondary bacterial infections, with links being made between these viral and bacterial diseases over the past century.
At the same time, we are constantly reminded that antibiotics are intended to be used against bacterial infections only and should not be used to treat viral infections. This is correct. We should be under no illusions that the continued rise of antimicrobial resistance is real and needs to be managed proactively.
So how best to manage this combination of infections and to communicate the process to our public audiences? Can treatment for these two types of infection be streamlined so that people who would otherwise have survived the viral infection do not succumb to a secondary bacterial infection and simultaneously add to the development of further antibiotic resistance?
This is the billion-dollar question. It relates to antibiotic development and antibiotic stewardship at opposite ends of the spectrum. The 4Rs of antibiotics stewardship offer a pragmatic place to start – the right antibiotic prescribed in the right dose, administered at the right time for the right length of time. Perhaps a fifth parameter should be added in the form of “to the right patient”.
Getting to the correct answer to these questions is a work in progress. But it may be possible with strong leadership and political and economic will. Cooperation and collaboration by individuals, companies, organisations and national institutions on a scale not seen since WWII is happening to reach the common goal of bringing and keeping SARS-CoV-2 under control. Surely it makes sense to make use of this momentum to move the development of new antibiotics forward. Now is the time. Let’s seize the opportunity.
We’ll be watching how this progresses. Feel free to join us.