Impact of COVID-19 on Antimicrobial Use and Antimicrobial Resistance

technician testing water in a vial

The short-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to accelerate the problems of antimicrobial resistance. The ways in which antimicrobials, including disinfectants, are being used during the pandemic cannot be predicted from historical data, and consequently it is imperative that monitoring of antimicrobial use and resistance be conducted in real-time.

Led by Randall Singer, DVM, PhD, professor of epidemiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, and co-leads Irene Bueno, DVM, MPH, PhD, and Bill Arnold, PhD, researchers in this study will conduct environmental sampling of water to quantify antimicrobial concentrations and antimicrobial resistant bacteria that are relevant to human health. They will also obtain antibiotic use data at the major Minnesota hospitals and correlate these data with the environmental sampling results.

“Antimicrobials are not entirely metabolized by humans after administration, and wastewater treatment plants cannot completely remove antimicrobials during the treatment process. In addition, antimicrobial resistant bacteria may also survive and even be concentrated by wastewater treatment,” said Singer. “Thus, the natural environment can serve as a proxy of antimicrobial usage and antimicrobial resistance changes in the human population.”

This project is supported by the UMN Campus Public Health Officer's CO:VID (Collaborative Outcomes: Visionary Innovation & Discovery) grants program, which support University of Minnesota faculty to catalyze and energize small-scale research projects designed to address and mitigate the COVID-19 virus and its associated risks.