Antimicrobial Use in COVID-19 Patients in the First Phase of the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic: A Scoping Review

Antibiotics (Basel). 2021 Jun 19;10(6):745. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics10060745.


This scoping review provides new evidence on the prevalence and patterns of global antimicrobial use in the treatment of COVID-19 patients; identifies the most commonly used antibiotics and clinical scenarios associated with antibiotic prescribing in the first phase of the pandemic; and explores the impact of documented antibiotic prescribing on treatment outcomes in COVID-19 patients. The review complies with PRISMA guidelines for Scoping Reviews and the protocol is registered with the Open Science Framework. In the first six months of the pandemic, there was a similar mean antibiotic prescribing rate between patients with severe or critical illness (75.4%) and patients with mild or moderate illness (75.1%). The proportion of patients prescribed antibiotics without clinical justification was 51.5% vs. 41.9% for patients with mild or moderate illness and those with severe or critical illness. Comparison of patients who were provided antibiotics with a clinical justification with those who were given antibiotics without clinical justification showed lower mortality rates (9.5% vs. 13.1%), higher discharge rates (80.9% vs. 69.3%), and shorter length of hospital stay (9.3 days vs. 12.2 days). In the first 6 months of the pandemic, antibiotics were prescribed for COVID-19 patients regardless of severity of illness. A large proportion of antibiotic prescribing for mild and moderate COVID-19 patients did not have clinical evidence of a bacterial co-infection. Antibiotics may not be beneficial to COVID-19 patients without clinical evidence of a bacterial co-infection.

Keywords: COVID-19 patients; antibiotic use; clinical justification; disease severity; secondary infections.

Publication types

  • Review