Environmental side effects of the injudicious use of antimicrobials in the era of COVID-19

Muhammad Usman*, Muhammad Farooq*, Khalil Hanna

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Use of antimicrobials in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19, caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, is on the rise. The increased use of antimicrobials can have serious consequences on the environment. Antibiotics have had a reasonable role in bacterial co-infections with regards to the management of COVID-19. However, recent evidences suggest that there has been injudicious prescription of antimicrobials. Moreover, a large number of people are self-medicating with antibiotics in a misguided attempt to protect themselves from the virus. This practice is especially prevalent in developing communities. Although common soaps are effective at inactivating enveloped viruses, such as the SARS-CoV-2, use of antibacterial products bearing biocides has increased during this pandemic. Current wastewater treatment techniques are unable to offer complete elimination of antibacterial biocides. These compounds can then accumulate in different environmental compartments thus, disrupting the functioning of native microbes. These microbes are involved in the biogeochemical cycling of elements and environmental remediation. In addition, the presence of antimicrobial elements in the environment can stimulate antimicrobial resistance. Concrete actions are needed to address this issue. Development of an antimicrobial policy specific for COVID-19 is urgently needed. Investments into improving wastewater infrastructure as well as public awareness is crucial. Moreover, global monitoring programs and multidisciplinary collaborations are required to understand the environmental impact of this pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141053
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Nov 25 2020


  • Antibacterial soaps
  • Antibiotics in environment
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
  • COVID-19
  • Wastewater contamination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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