J Infect Dis. 2021 Apr 15:jiab208. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiab208. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a concern over possible increase in antibiotic use due to co-infections among COVID-19 patients in the community. Here, we evaluate the changes in nationwide use of broad-spectrum antibiotics during the COVID-19 epidemic in South Korea.
METHODS: We obtained national reimbursement data on the prescription of antibiotics, including penicillin with beta-lactamase inhibitors, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, and macrolides. We examined the number of antibiotic prescriptions compared with the previous three years in the same period from August to July. To quantify the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on antibiotic use, we developed a regression model adjusting for changes of viral acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs) which are an important factor driving antibiotic use.
RESULTS: During the COVID-19 epidemic in South Korea, the broad-spectrum antibiotic use dropped by 15%-55% compared to the previous 3 years. Overall reduction in antibiotic use adjusting for ARTIs was estimated to be 14%-30%, with a larger impact in children.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study found that broad-spectrum antibiotic use was substantially reduced during the COVID-19 epidemic in South Korea. This reduction can be in part due to reduced ARTIs as a result of stringent public health interventions including social distancing measures.