ANTIBIOTIC use was “very high” among Covid-19 hospital patients in the UK during the first wave of the pandemic, even though confirmed bacterial infections were rare, scientists have found.

New analysis, published in the journal The Lancet Microbe, shows that, between February 6 and June 8, 2020, 85% of coronavirus patients received one or more antibiotics during their hospital stay, while 37% were prescribed the drugs prior to admission.

The scientists say that giving antibiotics to Covid-19 patients who do not have a bacterial co-infection risks worsening global antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria no longer respond to the drugs made to kill them.

Study author Dr Antonia Ho, of the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, said: “Our findings are in no way a criticism of the NHS clinicians.

“However, we now know that bacterial co-infection is uncommon in patients with community-acquired Covid-19.

“Since antimicrobial resistance remains one of the biggest public health challenges of our time, measures to combat it are essential to help ensure that these life-saving medicines remain an effective treatment in years to come.”