Tag Archives: superbugs

Antibiotic resistance: How to cover this ongoing health story beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Image courtesy of Photos for Class.

The problem of superbugs was brewing before the pandemic and has only worsened in the past two years in some parts of the country. In 2019, the CDC said about 35,000 people a year in the U.S. die from a drug-resistant infection, up from 2013 when the agency estimated about 21,000 were dying annually from a superbug. (This is the latest national data available from the CDC.)

“We’ve seen a rise in broad-spectrum antibacterial use nationwide during this pandemic,” said Shruti Gohil, M.D., M.P.H., associate medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. And “there has also been a rise in multidrug-resistant organism infections, specifically” in hospitals.

If you’re looking for important health stories that will endure post-COVID-19, get up to speed on covering antibiotic resistance. Let’s start with some background information and explore the latest data.

A deep dive into antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon. When a patient sick with a bacteria or fungus is given an antibiotic, the drug kills most of the pathogens — enough for a patient to develop an immune response to get better. But a few pathogens may survive, and those ‘superbugs’ then multiply and spread in the environment. Older patients and those with compromised immune systems are among the most vulnerable to these resistant bacteria.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, hospitals reported a 41% increase in infection events caused by bacteriemia, a type of bloodstream, and often drug-resistant pathogen, according to the CDC. The rise in infection event was likely related to the large increase in COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals that needed ventilators and catheters and other equipment to keep them alive, but also create opportunities for bacteria to enter the body.

Continue reading

Superbug threat increased by COVID-19

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo: Matt Gibson via Flickr

A little-reported side effect of surging COVID-19 cases is the likelihood that there will be an increasing number of people exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

At least 15 percent to 20 percent of people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, develop a secondary bacterial infection, requiring the use of antibiotics. As a result, most hospitals are prescribing antibiotics pre-emptively to hospitalized COVID-19 patients, heightening the likelihood that more bacteria are adapting and developing resistance to these antibiotics. Continue reading

Tell stories about lab rats on the radio

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

A cup of coffee with a former journalist colleague led Rhode Island radio reporter Lynn Arditi down the path of reporting on “superbugs,” the term for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Arditi’s former colleague was working for LifeSpan, a large Rhode Island health system, and pitched her the story of a study authored by one of its lead researchers and infectious diseases specialists. The study was about the discovery of a set of compounds that could become a new class of antibiotics to treat drug-resistant bacteria. Continue reading

Putting a human face on new antimicrobial research

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo: CDC/Courtesy of Larry Stauffer, Oregon State Public Health LaboratoryA positive result of a phage test showing diminished growth (arrowhead) where a gamma phage suspension had been applied.

A desire to put a human face to antibiotic resistance led reporter Chris Dall to dig into the relatively unknown world of viral research aimed at killing superbugs.

Dall began investigating bacteriophages, which are viruses that kill bacteria, when he was assigned a story to write about a study that appeared in the scientific journal, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in August 2017. The report dryly described a method of using viruses to save a 68-year-old man, who was dying from an antibiotic-resistant infection. Continue reading

Antibiotic resistance in food-poisoning bacteria on the rise

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo: NIH Image Gallery via FlickrSalmonella bacteria invade an immune cell.

A report released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showed that an increasing number of Americans infected with the foodborne pathogen, salmonella, are resistant to multiple antibiotics.

In 2015, multidrug resistance rose to 12 percent of salmonella cases, from 9 percent the year before, the FDA said. Eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry or egg products can cause salmonella infection. Continue reading