Professor Colin Garner

Infectious disease expert urges Government to make secondary bacterial infections the primary concern in review of death data

Peter Gibson ANTRUK announcements, Coronavirus COVID-19

Professor Colin Garner calling for a review of death toll data

Professor Colin Garner calls on Government to review of death toll data in relation to the current COVID-19 outbreak. He  has drawn on initial research from Wuhan, China, as well as retrospective reviews of past Swine Flu and Influenza outbreaks.  Professor Garner asks that the Government investigates and publishes full causes of death instead of merely stating mortalities are “due to Coronavirus.”

Professor Garner, the founder and chief executive of charity Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK), hypothesises that secondary bacterial infections (including bacterial pneumonia) may be a significant cause of deaths during the current outbreak. This being the case, increased resource should be deployed into finding new treatments to beat drug-resistant infections.

“The system of reporting deaths in the UK seems to me to be antiquated and scant in essential content. At present, there is much controversy around the reporting of deaths in care homes and domestic dwellings, but I would also add the question, “why?” to the “where” and “when?”. I suspect, from the initial data we have seen, a lack of effective antibiotics may be playing a significant part.”

In a blog published on 13 April, Professor Garner states: “In a preliminary report of 191 COVID-19 patients, researchers in Wuhan showed that opportunistic bacterial infections were found in 15% (n=28) of hospitalised patients. Of these patients with a secondary bacterial infection, all but one died (n=27). All admitted patients in this study were administered antibiotics and 60% of hospitalised patients developed sepsis.’

We have seen the effects of secondary infections during viral pandemics before. Studies on the 2009 ‘Swine Flu’ (SARS) pandemic found hospital pneumonia as a result of secondary bacterial pneumonia in anywhere from 29-55% of the people who lost their lives.”

Decision-makers, the pharmaceutical industry, medics and even the public have done little to avert the crisis of drug-resistance, despite the role it played in these previous health crises and the role it could now be playing once again, argues Garner.

For its part, Antibiotic Research UK is using what resources it has at its disposal to fund new projects, such as the use of two existing drugs that, when used in combination, seem effective in killing drug-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic Research UK also campaigns for prevention through essential hygiene and have also established the world’s first Patient Support programme for people affected by bacterial drug-resistance, to be a conduit of information on such infections.

Concluded Garner: “If the type of robust data we are searching for is made transparent, then it clearly makes the case for increased resource to be put into finding alternatives to our existing antibiotics with alacrity. Current death data is lacking the detail required to make effective health planning possible, particularly during the time of a pandemic.”

If you are concerned about a drug-resistant infection, please email, telephone 07367 784114 or visit our website.

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