In recent weeks there has been endless global attention paid to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Peppered throughout media coverage – and in remarks from the President – terms like “antimicrobial resistance,” “bacterial infection,” and “antivirals” have been used repeatedly, often in incorrect ways, misleading the public. But the implications of these words cannot be understated, and each has profound effects on life, death, and the infections that cause disease.

However, as we focus on the direct health emergency of the moment, we forget to consider the secondary infections and effects on patients – and hospitals – that coronavirus is having. Although most patients perish from respiratory distress, a subset of people are dying from secondary infections that attack the weakened immune system. In fact, a recent study published in The Lancet found that 10% of coronavirus patients (more than 1/3 of which were admitted to the ICU), had secondary infections.

But after all the misuse of terms and incorrect suggestions to how they overlap with coronavirus, what exactly are superbugs? How do they develop antimicrobial resistance? And what are the actual differences between antibiotics, antivirals, antifungal, antimalarials, and antiprotozoal?

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