With All Eyes on Covid-19, Drug-Resistant Infections Crept In

“We saw a bloom in Candida auris,” said Dr. Rubin, who attributed the change to a handful of factors, particularly the challenges in testing for germs when so much testing resources went towards Covid-19.

Harmful drug-resistant bacteria are also emerging, including carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, which is classified as an “Urgent Health Threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In December, the CDC reported a group of Acinetobacter baumannii during a surge in Covid-19 patients in a New Jersey urban hospital with about 500 beds. The hospital was not identified. The bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae spread to hospitals in Italy and Peru.

Recognizing the problem, three major medical societies sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Dec. 28, demanding a temporary suspension of the regulations that tie reimbursement rates to hospital-acquired infections. The three groups – the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists, and the Association for Infection Control and Epidemiology – feared that infection rates might have increased due to Covid-19.

“The staff, care, care locations and standard patient care practices have all changed during this extraordinary period,” the letter said.

Not all types of drug-resistant infections have increased. For example, some research shows that the rate of hospital patients acquiring the bacterium Clostridioides difficile did not change much during the pandemic – a finding that suggests that the long-term effects of the pandemic on these infections overall are not yet clear.

Dr. Huang and other experts said they are not claiming the priority in fighting Covid-19 was wrong. Rather, they say that drug-resistant germs need renewed attention. Previous research has shown that up to 65 percent of nursing home residents carry some form of drug-resistant infection.

Over the years, critics have alleged that hospitals, and especially nursing homes, have been negligent in their efforts to combat these infections because of the cost of disinfecting equipment, training staff, isolating infected patients, and checking for germs.

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