Myth: Antibiotics will work against this new strain of Coronavirus.

Fact: Covid19 is the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that first emerged in China in December 2019. The medical and scientific community is working hard to find out as much as we can about this new virus and the disease it causes. Fortunately, the majority of people affected seem to have a mild illness – a bit of fever and muscle aching for a few days. However some people go on to develop pneumonia and these people have a more severe illness.

Most people have heard of pneumonia – an infection of the lungs – and most would assume this can be treated by antibiotics. If the cause of the pneumonia is a bacterial infection, then doctors would generally give antibiotics to these patients. Antibiotics are drugs which attack bacteria, either by interfering with the cell wall or the way the bacteria reproduce. But bacteria are not the only germs that can make us ill. Many illnesses, including some of the commonest such as colds, flu and chickenpox are caused by viral infections. Viruses are smaller than bacteria and they don’t have a cell wall. They consist of a protein coat and a core of genetic material. Antibiotics – designed to kill bacteria – just don’t work against viruses. There are some antiviral drugs that can be used against some viruses such as the ones that cause flu. Unfortunately we don’t yet have antiviral drugs that kill the coronavirus that causes covid19.

So antibiotics won’t work for this and we don’t yet have antivirals either. That doesn’t mean that covid19 pneumonia can’t be treated. Doctors can supply oxygen and other drugs to help breathing and support an ill patient. Sometimes they may also prescribe antibiotics, but this will be when bacterial infections develop on top of the underlying viral illness. In using treatments such as these, most people who get pneumonia with covid19 are successfully treated and get better.

In summary, bacteria and viruses are different kinds of germs. Covid19 is caused by a virus of the coronavirus family. Antibiotics won’t work against covid19 because this is a viral illness.


Source: Professor Maureen Baker CBE, CMO for Your.MD