Fatal bacterial infections may stem from COVID-19 therapies, AMR a concern: Study

Researchers have found that SARS-CoV-2 and bacteria in lungs may affect each other’s ability to cause damage and worsen the outcome in a COVID-19 patient   

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 10 June 2020

Amid rising concerns that the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic will increase the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), researchers from Queen’s University Belfast have found that potentially fatal bacterial respiratory infections may arise during hospital stays and because of therapies given to COVID-19 patients. 

The research was published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, wherein the authors cautioned over a new wave of antimicrobial resistance.

The becaterial infection may worsen the clinical outcome and the severity of COVID-19 in a patient, increasing the risk of death, the researchers said.  They used clinical data as well as postmortem analysis of tissues from COVID-19 patients to come to this conclusion.

The researchers found that virus SARS-CoV-2 and bacteria in the lungs may affect each other’s ability to cause damage and worsen the outcome. 

“The lack of therapies to treat severe COVID-19 patients led clinicians to use a number of treatments to modify the activity of their immune system," said José Bengoechea, professor of molecular microbiology and director, Wellcome Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, Queen’s University. But these interventions may increase the risk of potentially fatal secondary bacterial respiratory infections.

“We believe that there is an urgent need to develop new therapeutics to treat COVID-19 targeting the virus / bacteria co-infection scenario,” the team said.

The research has raised concerns of the impact of COVID-19 on AMR globally. The World Health Organisation recently expressed fears that the pandemic will increase the global threat of AMR as many COVID-19 patients receive antibiotics as part of their treatment regime. 

“It is critical that co-infections should not be underestimated and instead be part of the plan to limit the global burden of morbidity and mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Bengoechea.


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