Data from the ECDC indicate that the use of antibiotics decreased by over 15% during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The use of antibiotics in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) decreased by over 15% during the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show.

The ECDC says this decrease was observed mostly in primary care and is most likely due to a decrease in consultations, either because of hesitancy to seek healthcare for mild self-limiting infections or difficulties obtaining an appointment.

However, the agency cautions, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) levels remain high for several important bacterial species and antimicrobial groups, with the highest percentages generally reported by countries in the south and east of Europe.

‘AMR remains a serious challenge globally,’ said Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. ‘AMR is a silent pandemic that is happening here and now. Although antibiotic consumption generally decreased during the pandemic in the EU/EEA, we must increase our public health response. In the EU, we are stepping up our actions and have made the fight against AMR a priority.’

The ECDC estimates that more than 670,000 infections occur in the EU/EEA annually due to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, resulting in approximately 33,000 deaths. The health burden is comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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