Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, antibiotic resistance was turning minor infections into life-threatening emergencies. Stephen Trent, a University of Georgia researcher and antibiotic expert, said the pandemic could be adding fuel to the fire.

The CDC calls antibiotic resistance one of its top public health concerns, killing tens of thousands in the U.S. and more than 700,000 people worldwide each year. Reports from the United Nations predict that by 2050, 10 million people will die from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections each year if nothing is done to stop the crisis.

“In the clinic, we have two pandemics going on at the same time,” said Trent, a UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We already had a global pandemic with antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance. There’s no doubt about that. Because of COVID, we’re giving a lot more patients antibiotics. We’re already seeing that we’re pushing the multidrug resistance problem and making that pandemic worse because we have to treat all of these people.”