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CDC report says pandemic reversed progress on antimicrobial resistance

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says progress on fighting antimicrobial resistant infections reversed course during the COVID-19 pandemic. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, resistant infections rose by 15 percent from 2019 to 2020.

The report cites multiple factors for the rise. Many COVID patients incorrectly received antibiotics, which can’t treat a viral disease. Overuse of these drugs leads to more bacteria developing resistance to them.

Also, more patients required ventilators and other interventions that increase the risk of getting an infection in the hospital. And, staffing shortages and strained resources shifted attention away from practices that control antimicrobial resistance.

Experts say there is a need for more data on the issue, as well as a renewed focus on infection control programs in healthcare settings. The report also calls for accelerated research into new drugs and vaccines for bacterial and fungal diseases. Millions of people in the U.S. get resistant infections every year, leading to tens of thousands of deaths.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.