VA hospitals' antibiotic use has increased amid pandemic, study finds

Antibiotic use has increased at Veterans Affairs hospitals during the pandemic, reversing a four-year trend of reduced use, according to a study presented at IDWeek 2020.

Researchers analyzed antibiotic use trends at 84 of the largest VA facilities in the U.S. between January and May. They also compared these trends to antibiotic use for the same five-month period from 2015 to 2019. 

Between 2015 and 2019, antibiotic use decreased 1.5 percent annually at the VA facilities. However, researchers found antibiotic use jumped 4 percent in 2020, to 631 days of therapy per 1,000 patient days, up from about 605 per 1,000 patient days in 2019. 

"We are back up to rates last seen in 2016, so we've lost about three years of progress," lead author Matthew Goetz, MD, chief of infectious diseases at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, said during an Oct. 23 media briefing. 

Dr. Goetz said the peak rate of antibiotic use appeared to occur sometime between March and April. He also said some VA hospitals with a large number of COVID-19 patients saw very few changes to antibiotic prescribing, while other facilities with few COVID-19 patients saw major changes.

The findings highlight the importance of designing more resilient programs to help maintain antibiotic stewardship during crises or future outbreaks, Dr. Goetz said.

IDWeek 2020 is an annual meeting hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medical Association, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists. The conference was held virtually this year.

 More articles on infection control:
Coronavirus can survive 28 days on some surfaces 
Kaiser cited over lack of COVID-19 airborne precautions
West Virginia hospital outbreak tied to 59 COVID-19 cases

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