CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Measures enacted in response to COVID-19 may have given some bacteria a leg up. Response to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back years of progress made combating antimicrobial resistance in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday.
Antimicrobial resistance is when bacteria and fungus become resistant to antibiotics, antifungals and other measures, usually due to overuse of hand sanitizer or improper use of antibiotics or antifungals—either taking them when they are not necessary or failing to complete a prescribed course of the medication, allowing stronger bacteria and fungi to remain and spread.
The CDC’s COVID-19: U.S. Impact on Antimicrobial Resistance, Special Report 2022 concluded that the threat of antimicrobial-resistant infections has gotten worse since March 2020, with resistant hospital-onset infections and deaths seeing an uptick of at least 15% during the first year of the pandemic.
The CDC found that the antimicrobial-resistant infections that saw the greatest uptick were carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter, which saw a 78% increase; multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which saw a 32% increase; vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), which saw a 14% increase; and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which saw a 13% increase.
It also reported that antifungal-resistant threats rose in 2020, with Candida auris seeing a 60% increase and Candida species (excluding Candida auris), with a 26% increase in infections in hospitals.
In its 2019 report, the CDC says its report showed antimicrobial-resistant infections fell by 27% from 2012 to 2017, and it says data shows the trend continued until March 2020.
During the first year of the pandemic, the CDC estimates more than 29,400 people died from antimicrobial-resistant infections and that of those, nearly 40% got the infection while they were in the hospital.
This news follows concerns in the scientific community that increased use of hand sanitizer and other disinfectants, as well as disruptions to health services during the pandemic, would worsen antimicrobial resistance.
The CDC said another issue that it found worsened antimicrobial resistance was that antibiotics were often improperly prescribed for people who had viral symptoms, which would not be improved by an antibiotic.