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Antimicrobial Resistance Exploded in COVID’s Wake, CDC Reports

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Doctors say the federal government needs to take action following a huge surge in death and illness related to resistance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was happy to report that hospital on-set infections resistant to antimicrobial treatment dropped by 27 percent between 2012 and 2017. Unfortunately, that success was wiped away by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the CDC reported on Tuesday, noting that such difficult-to-kill infections rose by 15 percent from 2019 to 2020.

CDC data indicates a shocking rise in drug-resistant infections among people hospitalized during COVID’s first year, with pathogens like Enterococcus and Staphylococcus aureus making dangerous gains. The bacteria Acinetobacter saw a 78 percent increase in infections resistant to the antibiotic Carbapenem.

More than 29,400 people died in 2020 from antimicrobial-resistant infections commonly associated with health care.

“This setback can and must be temporary,” said Michael Craig, MPP, Director of CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Coordination & Strategy Unit, in a statement. “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. 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.”

Infections resistant to antifungal treatment also rose significantly in 2020 — 60 percent, according to CDC data. 

The Infectious Diseases Society of America swiftly released a statement in response to the CDC’s report:

"Federal funding is needed for CDC’s antimicrobial resistance programs, including surveillance and prevention,” Daniel P. McQuillen, MD, Infectious Diseases Society of America president, said in a statement. “Passing the bipartisan PASTEUR Act — which funds the development of new antibiotics as well as stewardship efforts to guide judicious antibiotic use — should be a top priority for Congress. Taking action now will save lives.”

"Infectious diseases experts make hospitals safer for patients, but they need the right tools. The U.S. must invest in new antibiotics, smarter antibiotic use, and the recruitment and retention of more ID physicians to lead infection control and antimicrobial stewardship efforts at U.S. health care facilities."

Read more about resistance here, specifically when it comes to antiretroviral drugs and people living with HIV.

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Neal Broverman

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Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.