At the height of the pandemic, doctors and nurses made furious efforts to protect themselves with gowns and masks, and tried ventilators to save the lives of seriously ill Covid-19 patients.
But these efforts had a side effect, along with other life-saving measures: drug-resistant infections have increased in hospitals.
The development, reported on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came in part because drug-resistant bacteria thrived on reused protective equipment, intravenous lines, and medical equipment like ventilators.
Drug-resistant infections have become a nagging, sometimes fatal problem in recent years. The threat has grown as various germs – especially bacteria and fungi – have mutated and developed defense mechanisms that enable them to resist drugs and thrive; the germs prey on elderly patients and immunocompromised patients in particular, limit the medicinal options for combating infections or, in extreme cases, leave no effective treatments behind.
In recent years, tremendous efforts have been made to slow the growth of these harmful microbes, which are increasingly resisting treatment by various classes of drugs. However, in the second half of 2020, those efforts “went terribly wrong at times,” with so much focus on stopping the transmission of Covid-19, according to a comment that accompanies the CDC’s new study. The authors wrote that the best known practices for stopping the spread of drug-resistant infections have been ignored or undermined in the face of a greater threat.
Drug-resistant bloodstream infections in hospitals increased 47 percent in the last three months of 2020 compared to the same period last year. That was a big change in dynamics. In the first three months of 2020, such infections had decreased by almost 12 percent compared to the same period last year, which can be attributed to the intensified efforts at the time to stop the spread.
Similar trends were seen in ventilator infections, which increased 45 percent year over year in the fourth quarter of 2020. Over the same period, infections from a bacterium – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA – rose 34 percent after declining in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year.