In a separate study, HHS finds a 40% increase in sepsis cases, as more patients succumb to infections without effective antibiotics and antimicrobial drugs

Given the drastic steps being taken to slow the spread of the Coronavirus in America, it’s easy to forget that significant numbers of patients die each year due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB), other forms of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and in thousands of cases the sepsis that follows the infections.

This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the report “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2019 (2019 AR Threats Report)” last fall. The federal agency wants to call attention the emergence of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi. In its report, the CDC lists 18 bacteria and fungi that pose either urgent, serious, or concerning threats to humans. It also placed one fungus and two bacteria on a “watch” list.

The CDC’s website states that “more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the US each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.” And a CDC news release states, “on average, someone in the United States gets an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds and every 15 minutes someone dies.”

Those are huge numbers.

Clinical laboratory leaders and microbiologists have learned to be vigilant as it relates to dangerously infectious antimicrobial-resistant agents that can result in severe patient harm and death. Therefore, new threats identified in the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States report will be of interest.

Drug-resistant Microbes That Pose Severe Risk

The CDC has added the fungus Candida auris (C. auris) and carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter (a bacteria that can survive for a long time on surfaces) to its list of “urgent threats” to public health, CDC said in the news release. These drug-resistant microbes are among 18 bacteria and fungi posing a greater threat to patients’ health than CDC previously estimated, Live Science reported.

In 2013, the CDC estimated that about two million people each year acquired an antibiotic-resistant (AR) infection that killed as many as 23,000. However, in 2019, the CDC reported that those numbers were low and that the number of deaths due to AR infections in 2013 was about twice that amount. During a news conference following the CDC announcement, Michael Craig (above), a Senior Adviser for the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit said, “We knew and said [in 2013] that our estimate was conservative … and we were right,” Live Science reported. In 2019, CDC reported 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections annually with more than 35,000 related deaths in the US alone. (Photo copyright: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

The CDC considers five threats to be urgent. Including the latest additions, they are:

Dark Daily has regularly covered the healthcare industry’s ongoing struggle with deadly fungus and bacteria that are responsible for hospital-acquired infections (HAI) and sepsis. This latest CDC report suggests healthcare providers continue to struggle with antimicrobial-resistant agents.

Acinetobacter Threat Increases and C. auris a New Threat since 2013

Carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter, a bacterium that causes pneumonia and bloodstream and urinary tract infections, escalated from serious to urgent in 2013. About 8,500 infections and 700 deaths were noted by the CDC in 2017. 

C. auris, however, was not addressed in the 2013 report at all. “It’s a pathogen that we didn’t even know about when we wrote our last report in 2013, and since then it’s circumvented the globe,” said Michael Craig, Senior Adviser for the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit, during a news conference following the CDC announcement, Live Science reported.

Today, C. auris is better understood. The fungus resists emerging drugs, can result in severe infections, and can be transmitted between patients, CDC noted.

Last year, Dark Daily reported on C. auris, noting that as of May 31 the CDC had tracked 685 cases. (See, “Potentially Fatal Fungus Invades Hospitals and Public Is Not Informed,” August 26, 2019.)

By year-end, CDC tracking showed 988 cases in the US.

More Patients Getting Sepsis as Antibiotics Fail: HHS Study

In a separate study published in Critical Care Medicine, a journal of the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), the US Department of Health and Human Services  (HHS) found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi are resulting in more people acquiring sepsis, a life-threatening condition, according to an HHS news release.

Sepsis increased by 40% among hospitalized Medicare patients from 2012 through 2018, HHS reported.   

“These (untreatable infections) are happening here and now in the United States in large numbers. This is isn’t some developing world thing. This isn’t a threat for 2050. It’s a threat for here and now,” Cornelius “Neil” Clancy, MD, Associate Chief of Veterans Affairs Pittsburg Health System (VAPHS) and Opportunistic Pathogens, told STAT.

It is troubling to see data about so many patient deaths related to antibiotic-resistant infections and sepsis cases when the world is transfixed by the Coronavirus. Nevertheless, it’s important that medical laboratory leaders and microbiologists keep track of how the US healthcare system is or is not responding to these new infectious agents. And, to contact infection control and environmental services colleagues to enhance surveillance, ensure safe healthcare environments and equipment, and adopt appropriate strategies to prevent antibiotic-resistant infections.   

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related Information:

CDC:  Biggest Threats and Data: 2019 Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States

More People in the U.S. Dying from Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Than Previously Estimated; Significant Progress Since 2013 Could be Lost Without More Action

These Two Drug-Resistant Microbes Are New “Urgent Threats” to Americans’ Health

CDC Report: 35,000 Americans Die of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Each Year

The Superbug Candida Auris is Giving Rise to Warnings and Big Questions

On the Emergency of Candida Auris Climate Change, Azoles, Swamps, and Birds

Largest Study of Sepsis Cases Among Medicare Beneficiaries Finds Significant Burden

Sepsis Among Medicare Beneficiaries: The Burdens of Sepsis 2012 to 2018

Dark Daily: Hospital-Acquired Infection

Potentially Fatal Fungus Invades Hospitals and Public is Not Informed