Long-term mask use may help cut need for antibiotics, Hong Kong team says

Social-distancing rules appear to have played a role in driving down incidences of other respiratory illnesses, University of Hong Kong team finds.

Measures adopted to protect against Covid-19, including wearing masks and regularly washing hands, have led to fewer Hongkongers being infected with respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis, and could have also reduced the need for antibiotics and lowered the resistance bacteria show to treatment, a study has found.

The research, conducted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and published in medical journal Antibiotics on May 31, also prompted a recommendation by a government pandemic adviser for mask wearing to continue during the winter flu season even when the pandemic was over.

“Our findings suggested that non-pharmaceutical measures in reducing the incidence of respiratory infections may be one of the strategies to control the amount of antibiotic consumption in humans, which may impact the burden of antibacterial resistance in the long run,” wrote Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, HKU’s chair of infectious diseases.