COVID-19 pandemic leads to surge in superbug infections, EU agency says
Published: Nov 17, 2022 10:47 PM
Infections from some antibiotic-resistant pathogens known as superbugs have more than doubled in health care facilities in Europe, an EU agency said on Thursday, providing further evidence of the wider impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) report said reported cases of two highly drug-resistant pathogens increased in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, then sharply jumped in 2021.

The surge stemmed from outbreaks in intensive care units of hospitals and in EU countries where antimicrobial-resistant infections were already widespread, ECDC official Dominique Monnet told a news conference.

Data showed that in Europe in 2021, reported cases of the Acinetobacter bacteria group more than doubled compared with pre-pandemic annual numbers. Cases of another bacteria, Klebsiella pneumoniae, which is resistant to last-resort antibiotics, jumped by 31 percent in 2020 and by 20 percent in 2021.

The report did not include data on how many people died from the infections in 2020 and 2021. 

Experts say it can be challenging to definitively attribute the cause of death when patients were hospitalized for COVID-19, for example.

Some scientists link the rise in hospital-acquired superbug infections during the pandemic to wider antibiotic prescriptions to treat COVID-19 and other bacterial infections during long hospital stays.

Monnet said that was "the most plausible hypothesis," but his agency had yet to conduct thorough analysis.

He also said the data showed decreases in cases of some ­other common superbugs in European hospitals.