Older Americans die disproportionately from antibiotic-resistant infections, study shows

Americans ages 65 and older are disproportionately affected by infections resistant to antibiotic treatment, according to a study published Oct. 7 in Clinical Infectious DIseases.

The study — conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City — used data from the Veterans Health Administration on patients admitted between January 2007 and December 2018 to estimate how many deaths resulted from infections caused by six common antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The researchers generalized their findings to the Americans who are ages 65 and older, producing estimates for 2017 by multiplying pathogen-specific estimates by national case counts from hospitalized patients.

The researchers found that of the estimated 30,000 deaths resulting from antibiotic-resistant infection in 2017, people ages 65 and older accounted for 12,000 of those deaths. This means older Americans made up about 40 percent of deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections in 2017, even though this age group accounted for only 15 percent of the U.S. population that year.

The study also found that antibiotic-resistant infections in older Americans resulted in nearly $1.9 billion in healthcare costs in 2017.

The researchers said older Americans could be more susceptible to antibiotic-resistant infections because of age-related decline in the ability to fight disease, higher likelihood of multiple chronic conditions and living in long-term care facilities where infections spread easily.

In its analysis of the study, The Pew Charitable Trusts said Congress and federal agencies such as CMS "need to prioritize actions and investments that will strengthen the existing arsenal against antibiotic-resistant infections by spurring the development of new antibiotics and slowing the emergence of these infections by reducing inappropriate antibiotic use, which is a primary driver of antibiotic resistance in hospitals, nursing homes and the community."

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