Listen: post-pandemic life and antibiotic resistance

7th April 2021
Posted by Aston Avery

Health services across the world will continue to make their battle against Covid-19 their priority, but they should not lose sight of the other associated health concerns, experts suggest.

The threat of microbes and bacteria, and their growing resistance to our arsenal of antibiotics, for example, remains significant. In the UK alone, 12,000 people die each year because of antibiotic resistance – a figure that is equivalent to the number of people who die due to breast cancer and one that continues to rise. In fact, according to a 2016 review, researchers found evidence to suggest that this figure could rise to 10 million deaths a year by 2050 if no action is taken.

What’s more, history suggests that bacteria can be at their most deadly after a virus-driven pandemic. Indeed, as many as 70% of deaths that occurred during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 were the result of bacterial infection, as the bacteria pneumococcus or streptococcus caused fatalities in patients who had previously contracted the influenza virus. This was primarily due to the damage the virus inflicted upon their organs, and with evidence suggesting that Long Covid causes damage to the heart (32% of patients), lungs (33%), pancreas (17%), kidneys (12%), and liver (10%), this correlation should not be ignored.

Aston spoke to microbiologist Dr Elias Hakalehto to discuss how we can adopt a broader approach to our healthcare and what can be done to protect against bacterial infection.