Frequent and diverse use of antibiotics may be associated with developing more severe outcomes after a Covid-19 infection, including death, UK scientists have shown.
The findings, funded by Health Data Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), act as a warning against the overuse of antibiotics in people.
The team was led by University of Manchester and included researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Leeds. They found that patients with more frequent antibiotic exposure in the past three years were at higher odds of experiencing severe Covid-19 outcomes, including hospital admission and 30-day mortality. Plus, using a range of antibiotics was more likely to be associated with Covid-19 hospital admission.
Co-principal investigator Professor Tjeerd van Staa from The University of Manchester said: “One potential explanation may be that frequent antibiotic use increases the likelihood of patients being infected with viruses or bacteria, leading to increased susceptibility to adverse consequences of infection.
“The literature also shows that antibiotic treatment might also alter gut microbiota, which can impact metabolic and immune function. While in most situations, gut microbiota will recover after stopping an antibiotic course, frequent antibiotic use may affect the resilience of gut microbiomes more seriously.”
The study showed that odds for hospitalised patients dying from Covid-19 related complications in the most frequent antibiotics exposure group were 1.34 higher than patients without prior antibiotic exposure. In addition, the odds of hospitalisation for patients with the highest history of prior antibiotic use and most antibiotic types were 1.8 times greater.
Co-principal investigator Dr Victoria Palin from The University of Manchester, said: “There needs to be more awareness of the impact of long-term antibiotic exposure and its adverse outcomes. We would discourage regular and indiscriminate prescribing of these drugs for self-limiting infections.”