Recommendations for antibacterial therapy in adults with COVID-19 – an evidence based guideline

Elske Sieswerda*, Mark G.J. de Boer, Marc M.J. Bonten, Wim G. Boersma, René E. Jonkers, Roel M. Aleva, Bart Jan Kullberg, Jeroen A. Schouten, Ewoudt M.W. van de Garde, Theo J. Verheij, Menno M. van der Eerden, Jan M. Prins, W. Joost Wiersinga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveyAcademicpeer-review


Scope: The Dutch Working Party on Antibiotic Policy constituted a multidisciplinary expert committee to provide evidence-based recommendation for the use of antibacterial therapy in hospitalized adults with a respiratory infection and suspected or proven 2019 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Methods: We performed a literature search to answer four key questions. The committee graded the evidence and developed recommendations by using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation methodology. Questions addressed by the guideline and Recommendations: We assessed evidence on the risk of bacterial infections in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the associated bacterial pathogens, how to diagnose bacterial infections and how to treat bacterial infections. Bacterial co-infection upon admission was reported in 3.5% of COVID-19 patients, while bacterial secondary infections during hospitalization occurred up to 15%. No or very low quality evidence was found to answer the other key clinical questions. Although the evidence base on bacterial infections in COVID-19 is currently limited, available evidence supports restrictive antibiotic use from an antibiotic stewardship perspective, especially upon admission. To support restrictive antibiotic use, maximum efforts should be undertaken to obtain sputum and blood culture samples as well as pneumococcal urinary antigen testing. We suggest to stop antibiotics in patients who started antibiotic treatment upon admission when representative cultures as well as urinary antigen tests show no signs of involvement of bacterial pathogens after 48 hours. For patients with secondary bacterial respiratory infection we recommend to follow other guideline recommendations on antibacterial treatment for patients with hospital-acquired and ventilator-associated pneumonia. An antibiotic treatment duration of five days in patients with COVID-19 and suspected bacterial respiratory infection is recommended upon improvement of signs, symptoms and inflammatory markers. Larger, prospective studies about the epidemiology of bacterial infections in COVID-19 are urgently needed to confirm our conclusions and ultimately prevent unnecessary antibiotic use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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