Antibiotic Use in UK’s COVID-19 Patients Often Unnecessary | Global Health | JAMA | JAMA Network
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Global Health
July 20, 2021

Antibiotic Use in UK’s COVID-19 Patients Often Unnecessary

JAMA. 2021;326(3):214. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.10458

Although few patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have a co-occurring bacterial infection, a recent study showed that a large proportion treated in UK hospitals receive antibiotics that often aren’t necessary.

Some patients hospitalized with COVID-19 receive unnecessary antibiotics, a recent study reported.

Cordelia Molloy/

Previously, a meta-analysis had found that roughly 75% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 received antibiotics even though only 8% actually had a bacterial coinfection. In the more recent study, investigators analyzed data from nearly 49 000 patients admitted with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 to any of 260 UK hospitals between February and June 2020.

Among a subset of 36 145 patients, 37% had been prescribed an antibiotic before they were admitted and 85% of 46 061 patients included in the analysis received 1 or more antibiotics during their hospital stay. Yet only 1107 of the patients had a confirmed COVID-19–related bacterial infection, and most occurred more than 48 hours after admission. Antibiotic prescribing was highest in the chaotic early days of the pandemic before physicians had much information about the disease, according to the authors.

“While some COVID-19 patients will require antibiotics, mostly for secondary infections which develop after admission to hospital, our data shows [sic] that not all COVID-19 patients should be prescribed antibiotics,” according to a statement from senior author Antonia Ho, PhD, a clinical senior lecturer and consultant in infectious diseases at the UK’s Medical Research Council–University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research.

Ho and her coauthors advised that physicians observe guidelines for more judicious prescribing to avoid contributing to emerging antibiotic resistance.