Hospital-acquired drug-resistant infections, deaths rose 15% from 2019-20: CDC

Antimicrobial-resistant infections have increased during the pandemic, with deaths rising by 15 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to the CDC's "COVID-19: US Impact on Antimicrobial Resistance, Special Report 2022."

Both resistant hospital-onset infections and deaths increased by at least 15 percent during the first year of the pandemic, according to the report, and occurred among seven pathogens. The two that saw some of the largest increases in infections included carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter, which increased by 78 percent, and multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which increased by 32 percent. 

"The 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," Michael Craig, director of the CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit, said in a press release sent to Becker's on July 12. "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."

The CDC data showed surges in antibiotic use and difficulty in following infection prevention and control guidance in hospitals, which are necessary to prevent antimicrobial-resistant infections. Challenges during the pandemic including personal protective equipment supply and staffing shortages and longer patient stays could have contributed to this increase in antimicrobial-resistant infections. 

In the first year of the pandemic, more than 29,400 people died from antimicrobial-resistant infections and, of these, nearly 40 percent got the infection during their hospital stay. In the 2019 report, which was the last year this data was able to be calculated, the CDC estimated more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occurred in the U.S. each year and more than 35,000 people die as a result. 

Despite the pandemic, more than 90 percent of U.S. hospitals in 2020 had an antibiotic stewardship program aligned with the CDC's Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship. 

"We need to emphasize and expand the implementation of the effective prevention strategies that are already in CDC's toolbox to all healthcare facilities," Denise Cardo, MD, director of CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, said in the press release. "The 2021 launch of the Global AR Lab and Response Network and the Global Action in Healthcare Network is an example of how aggressively CDC is moving to combat antimicrobial resistance not only in the U.S., but in nearly 50 countries across the world. We made significant progress before the pandemic, and I'm confident that we will make significant progress going forward."

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