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.
The CDC considers five threats to be urgent. Including the
latest additions, they are:
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
Today, C. auris is better understood. The fungus
resists emerging drugs, can result in severe infections, and can be transmitted
between patients, CDC noted.
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.
The UE study sheds light on the types of bacteria in
wastewater that goes down hospital pipes to sewage treatment plants. The study
also revealed that not all infectious agents are killed after passing through
waste treatment plants. Some bacteria with antimicrobial (or antibiotic)
resistance survive to enter local food sources.
The scientists concluded that the amount of AMR genes found
in hospital wastewater was linked to patients’ length-of-stays and consumption
of antimicrobial resistant bacteria while in the hospital.
In a paper the University of Edinburgh published on medRxiv, the researchers wrote: “There was a higher abundance of antimicrobial-resistance genes in the hospital wastewater samples when compared to Seafield community sewage works … Sewage treatment does not completely eradicate antimicrobial-resistance genes and thus antimicrobial-resistance genes can enter the food chain through water and the use of [processed] sewage sludge in agriculture. As hospital wastewater contains inpatient bodily waste, we hypothesized that it could be used as a representation of inpatient community carriage of antimicrobial resistance and as such may be a useful surveillance tool.”
Additionally, they wrote, “Using metagenomics to identify
the full range of AMR genes in hospital wastewater could represent a useful
surveillance tool to monitor hospital AMR gene outflow and guide environmental
policy on AMR.”
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to medications to prevent and treat bacterial infections, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet. The CDC estimates that more than 23,000 people die annually from two million antibiotic-resistance infections.
Wastewater, the UE scientists suggest, should not go to
waste. It could be leveraged to improve hospitals’ detection of patients with antimicrobial
resistance, as well as to boost environment antimicrobial-resistance polices.
They used metagenomics (the study of genetic material
relative to environmental samples) to compare the antimicrobial-resistance
genes in hospital wastewater against wastewater from community sewage
The UE researchers:
First collected samples over a 24-hour period from various areas in a tertiary hospital;
They then obtained community sewage samples from various locations around Seafield, Scotland;
Antimicrobial-resistance genes increased with longer length of patient stays, which “likely reflects transmission amongst hospital inpatients,” researchers noted.
Fey suggests that further research into using sequencing
technology to monitor patients is warranted.
“I think that monitoring each patient and sequencing their
bowel flora is more likely where we’ll be able to see if there’s a significant
carriage of antibiotic-resistant organisms,” Fey told MedPage Today. “In
five years or so, sequencing could become so cheap that we could monitor every
patient like that.”
Fey was not involved in the University of Edinburgh
Given the rate at which AMR bacteria spreads, finding antibiotic-resistance
genes in hospital wastewater may not be all that surprising. Still, the University
of Edinburgh study could lead to cost-effective ways to test the genes of
bacteria, which then could enable researchers to explore different sources of
infection and determine how bacteria move through the environment.
And, perhaps most important, the study suggests clinical
laboratories have many opportunities to help eliminate infections and slow
antibiotic resistance. Microbiologists can help move their organizations forward
too, along with infection control colleagues.