Today, CDC released a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on antimicrobial-resistant (AR) infections in the United States titled, COVID-19: U.S. Impact on Antimicrobial Resistance, Special Report 2022. CDC emphasized, “This analysis finds significant surges in AR infections and antibiotic use in hospitals during the first year of the pandemic. These surges reflect a reversal of progress noted in the 2019 AR Threats Report, which previously showed a reduction of AR deaths by 18% overall from 2012 to 2017.”
“These setbacks can and must be temporary.”
CDC continues to prioritize proven prevention activities and build on foundational investments globally through the AR Solutions Initiative. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear—the nation must properly resource a stronger and more resilient public health and healthcare system focused on prevention, through increased funding like what is outlined in the FY23 President’s Budget request.
Here are some key takeaways from the report as shared by CDC:
- The report, COVID-19: U.S. Impact on Antimicrobial Resistance, Special Report 2022, concludes that the threat of AR infections is not only still present but has gotten worse in the U.S.—with resistant hospital-onset infections and deaths both increasing at least 15% during the first year of the pandemic.
- More than 29,400 people died from AR infections commonly associated with healthcare during the first year of the pandemic. Of these, nearly 40% of the people got the infection while they were in the hospital. The burden of resistance is likely much higher, but the pandemic caused data gaps*.
- For many community-associated pathogens, infection and death data were delayed or unavailable as many clinics and healthcare facilities had limited services, served fewer patients, or closed their doors entirely in the face of challenges from COVID-19**.
*CDC is missing data for nine of the 18 pathogens listed in its 2019 AR Threats Report. CDC’s 2019 estimates are still the strongest data to show the U.S. burden of antimicrobial resistance—at least 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections continue to occur in the U.S. each year and more than 35,000 people die as a result.
In the 2019 AR Threats Report, CDC reported that nationwide investments in prevention drove down deaths from antimicrobial-resistant infections by 18% from 2012 through 2017. CDC data show these reductions continued until 2020. But the pandemic resulted in more resistant infections, increased antibiotic use, and less data and prevention actions.
The Local Perspective
NACCHO has been closely monitoring how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted local public health efforts in the U.S. since the early days of the pandemic. COVID-19 has reshaped responses to other infectious diseases and presented a barrier to operations across the country including tuberculosis programs at local health departments whose staff were often pulled from their duties to respond to emerging outbreaks of COVID-19 in their communities. NACCHO explored the plethora of challenges that health departments have faced in the 2020 Forces of Change: The COVID-19 Edition report published earlier this year.