Drug-resistant infections in hospitals have skyrocketed during the pandemic, CDC says

The spread of drug-resistant infections has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic, killing nearly 30,000 people in 2020 and consuming much of the recent progress in disease control, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. preventing the spread of so-called superbugs.

Federal health officials say the number of deaths from infections impervious to antibiotics and antifungals rose 15 percent in the first year of the pandemic compared with 2019. Much of the increase is tied to the mix. coronavirus pandemic as doctors and nurses struggle to treat a wave of grieving patients they didn’t fully understand about the disease before vaccines and treatments were widely available.

About 40% of deaths are in hospitalized patients, with the remainder occurring in nursing homes and other healthcare settings, the CDC report found. Early on, many front-line hospital workers mistakenly used antibiotics for viral lung infections and failed to respond to those drugs, according to the study. Many of the sickest patients spent weeks or months in the intensive care unit, increasing the chance for resistant bugs to enter their bodies through intravenous lines, catheters, and breathing tubes.

Federal health officials say the death toll could be much higher, as public health labs that normally track drug-resistant infections have been swamped by the pandemic, leading to a significant gap in funding. data on many of the most dangerous pathogens.

The CDC says the outbreak of drug-resistant infections could be abetted by nationwide shortages of masks, gloves and gowns – vital armor that protects healthcare workers and helps limit the spread of pathogens as they move from room to room. Due to understaffing and overcrowding at many hospitals, infection control specialists are often assigned to provide basic patient care, rather than performing their usual duties of encouraging patients, the report said. Encourage the use of antibiotics, hand washing and other safety measures.

“These obstacles can and must be temporary,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the CDC. “The Covid-19 pandemic has made that clear – prevention is preparation. We must prepare our public health system to withstand multiple threats simultaneously.”

Federal officials are particularly concerned about the increased spread of some of the deadliest pathogens. They found a 78% spike in infections with Acinetobacter, a bacterium that is resistant to carbapenem antibiotics and is often spread among intensive care patients, and Candida auris increased by 60%, a deadly fungus that often stalks nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The analysis highlights what public health experts have long described as a slow-moving pandemic. More than 700,000 people around the world die each year from infections that no longer respond to antibiotics, and health experts warn that the death toll could reach 10 million by 2050 without efforts. synergistic efforts to reduce antibiotic overuse and develop new drugs.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria and fungi mutate to overcome the drugs that have been designed to kill them. This evolutionary process is inevitable, but the more these drugs are administered to people and pets, the more likely they are to develop resistance.

According to the CDC, nearly one-third of antibiotics are often mistakenly prescribed for respiratory illnesses such as colds caused by viruses. The agency noted that the problem appears to have developed during the pandemic: 80% of hospitalized Covid patients received antibiotics between March and October 2020.

The CDC’s findings are a stark contrast to earlier reports showing slow but steady progress in fighting hospital-acquired infections that kill 35,000 Americans each year and cause 2.8 million sick people. According to the agency’s 2019 report, the death rate from drug resistance fell by 18 percent between 2012 and 2019.

The most recent report confirmed what many healthcare workers and public health professionals had suspected based on anecdotal reports and some prior research.

David Hyun, director of the Antimicrobial Resistance Project at Pew Charity Trusts, an NGO, said: “The extent of it has gotten worse is really alarming. “It also underscores the urgency that we need to really focus and reinvest in efforts to address this public health problem.”

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