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The urgent worldwide battle against COVID-19 may have allowed dangerous drug-resistant germs to gain a greater foothold in human populations and care facilities.

Hospitals and nursing homes are home to different forms of multi-drug resistant germs—bacteria, fungus, and viruses. According to STAT, there are 2.8 million multi-drug resistant infections (formerly called “superbugs”) in the US each year. Approximately 35,000 patients die each year of these infections.

Seeking easy access, germs of all kinds target people who are older, younger, or immune-compromised. As the attention of the healthcare industry continues to focus on treatment of COVID-19, researchers are finding rising pockets of dangerous drug-resistant germs.

According to The New York Times, one troubling germ is the fungus Candida auris. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers C. auris a “global health threat.” Some strains of the fungus are resistant to all three classes of antifungal medications. While there were a minimal number of cases identified in Los Angeles County, California pre-pandemic, latest figures put the number of identified cases at 250.

In addition to being stubbornly drug-resistant, C. auris is easy to mistake for other fungi. An infection misidentified at the outset may be difficult to treat in a later stage, if treatment is possible at all.

Because of the prevalence of C. auris in nursing and healthcare facilities, strict protocols to inhibit or prevent transmission of the fungus between patients and facilities are an important step in prevention of spread. During the pandemic, many of the guidelines have been swept aside in the urgent need to treat patients with COVID-19. In addition, specialty resources formerly used to identify C. auris have been put to use for COVID-19 testing.

Beyond C. auris, healthcare providers around the world have prescribed antibiotics for COVID-19 patients, sometimes in the absence of a confirmed bacterial infection. Given the high numbers of seriously ill patients, antibiotic stewardship has taken a back seat as desperate physicians have tried various cocktails and medications to slow the spread of COVID-19 and its attending secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia.

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are dangerous to patients in healthcare and nursing facilities. One result of the all-out struggle to save human life from SARS-CoV-2 may be a more intense battle between humans and germs in the years to come. Vastly outnumbered, humans cannot win the battle but can restart stewardship programs and use research to stay in the game.

If seriously injured through a HAI or medical error during a hospital stay, speak with our legal team.

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