Global research into antibiotic resistance is urgent during the ongoing pandemic

The use of antibiotics is increasing during the corona pandemic, and this is expected to increase the number of antibiotic resistant bacteria. We now need research into links between the new coronavirus and secondary infections, says Jan-Ingvar Jönsson, Secretary General of the Scientific Council for Medicine and Health, and Chair of JPIAMR.

Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash

Severe inflammation of the airways is a complication that often arises in persons who become seriously ill with COVID-19. Antibiotics are then a common treatment. Antibiotics as such have no effect on the virus specifically, but are given in cases of bacterial pneumonia.

“As COVID-19 can be life-threatening for many inpatients, you have to use antibiotics straight away as a safety measure. The doctor doesn’t have time to wait for test results on whether bacteria are involved or not,” says Jan-Ingvar Jönsson, Secretary General of the Scientific Council for Medicine and Health at the Swedish Research Council and Chair of the organisation Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR), which is coordinating international research into antimicrobial resistance.

A global mustering of strength is in progress right now to understand the disease COVID-19, which is caused by the new coronavirus. For each day that passes, knowledge increases in healthcare of how patients should best be treated, but much remains to learn.

JPIAMR recently published an article about links between antibiotic resistance and the ongoing pandemic. It is important to research the links between the new coronavirus and secondary infections, Jan-Ingvar Jönsson thinks.

Jan-Ingvar Jönsson

Jan-Ingvar Jönsson

“We need to understand how the disease develops to know what type of treatment to use. But we need also to answer the question why certain patients develop life-threatening bacterial infections that give rise to pneumonia, while others have no, or other complications.”

JPIAMR has launched a call titled Network Plus 2020. This provides support to research networks focusing on secondary infections, for example pneumonia, and on antibiotic resistance. This in the context of COVID-19.

Research needs to be coordinated

Antibiotic resistance risks undermining modern healthcare at global level, and the need to coordinate research is clear. The EU is preparing new collaborations within the area of research and innovation. JPIAMR is expected to lead one of these: “Partnership on One Health AMR”.

Sweden and the Swedish Research Council should assume a leading role when the upcoming partnership programme is designed, Jan-Ingvar Jönsson considers.

“There is great respect for how Sweden is managing the problems with antibiotics nationally, and how public agencies are working with the national strategy, but also for how Sweden has managed these areas internationally and within the EU.”



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