COVID-19 Highlights Issue of Superbugs in Hospitals

January 6, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a host of challenges for U.S. hospitals, from personal protective equipment shortages to a rapidly increased burden on information technology systems. Controlling the spread of the coronavirus among patients and staff also has highlighted a long-time challenge for facilities — superbugs, or hospital-acquired infections (HAI).

While a large number of people avoided hospitals early in the pandemic because they feared catching coronavirus, the problem of potentially deadly HIAs isn’t restricted to the pandemic, according to New Scientist. Every year, hundreds of millions of people admitted to hospitals end up with infections that can be more dangerous than their initial condition. The best known causes include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff), often called superbugs for their ability to shrug off antibiotic treatments.

And as the current pandemic makes clear, bacteria aren’t the only microbes able to adapt at our expense. In the past few years, a new threat has been setting off alarm bells: treatment-resistant fungal infections in hospitals around the world. Worryingly, 90 percent of infections caused by the main culprit, Candida auris, are resistant to one mainstay antifungal drug. This resistance is developing at an “unprecedented” pace, according to a recent assessment, which warns that the problem isn’t just spreading in hospitals, but also in fields, gardens and the air.

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