A SILENT pandemic is following closely behind Covid-19 – and a group of experts have warned it could potentially lead to more deaths than coronavirus unless urgent action is taken.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer set up a task force to look at how to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), where infections become resistant to treatment through the overuse of antibiotics.

Their report was published yesterday to coincide with World Antimicrobial Awareness Week as a new survey showed almost half of people (45%) in the UK do not know how they can tackle resistance to antibiotics.

The task force pointed out that more people considered Covid-19 (64%) and climate change (33%) as the most serious threats to global health, compared to only 19% for AMR.

However, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to the world’s health and causes 700,000 deaths every year.

Without action, the United Nations has estimated that 10 million people could die each year from ineffective antibiotics by 2050.

Covid has led to a greater use of antibiotics, which in turn could lead to greater risk of resistance.

A global analysis of bacterial infections in patients with Covid-19 between December 2019 and April this year estimated that despite only 7% on average testing positive for bacterial infection, 72% received antibiotics.

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The UK data is not yet available, but it is thought that might be happening here as well.

Experts have developed a range of actions so everyone can “change the course” – from helping to spread the word, writing to their MPs, finding out how antibiotics are used in food production or supporting education at home and as part of the school curriculum.

Professor Christine Bond, from the University of Aberdeen and Antibiotic Research UK, told The National people had to change their mindset about antibiotic use.

“Quite a lot of people, I think 70% in the initial stages, were given an antibiotic as a precaution, not because they had an infection, but because they might get one,” she said.

“I think that has come down. A lot of people realised that in fact, there’s not that many bacterial infections associated with Covid.

“It absolutely is a question of changing the mindset.”

Bond said many people did not understand that what they do matters.

“It’s a bit like climate change – quite suddenly, everybody’s thinking, ‘oh, I can do a bit about climate change’.

“Well, we’ve got to get that mindset for other things. This is a disaster, honestly, it’s a disaster waiting to happen if we don’t address it now.”