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COVID-19 Exacerbated Antimicrobial Resistance

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

In a special report released this week, the CDC described “an alarming increase” in antimicrobial-resistant-related infections and deaths that occurred between 2019 and 2020.

The agency placed the blame on the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic for a 15% rate increase, breaking a years-long streak of steady decline. The worst offenders included carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter (78% increase), multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa (32% increase), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (14% increase), and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (13% increase).

The report authors also noted a rise in antifungal-resistant threats — Candida auris (up 60% overall) and Candida species (up 26%). Because of pandemic-related delays in data reporting, the authors could not provide relevant information on nine of 18 antimicrobial resistance threats, including Clostridioides difficile, erythromycin-resistant group A Streptococcus, and clindamycin-resistant group B Streptococcus.

“This setback can and must be temporary. The COVID-19 pandemic has unmistakably shown us that antimicrobial resistance will not stop if we let down our guard; there is no time to waste,” said Michael Craig, MPP, director of CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Coordination & Strategy Unit. “The best way to avert a pandemic caused by an antimicrobial-resistant pathogen is to identify gaps and invest in prevention to keep our nation safe.”

While lamenting the reported rise, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) called for “systemic changes” to reclaim lost progress. Specifically, IDSA called for more funding for surveillance and prevention programs. Additionally, the group called for congressional action on the PASTEUR Act.

“Infectious diseases experts make hospitals safer for patients, but they need the right tools,” said IDSA President Daniel P. McQuillen, MD, FIDSA. “The U.S. must invest in new antibiotics, smarter antibiotic use, and the recruitment and retention of more ID physicians to lead infection control and antimicrobial stewardship efforts at U.S. healthcare facilities.”

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Hospital Employee Health, Hospital Infection Control & Prevention, and Infectious Disease Alert.