The coronavirus pandemic has forced many long-term care facilities to resort to reusing single-use respirators, face masks, face shields and eye protection, and now new research suggests this desperate frugality may have helped spread a different set of germs: drug-resistant bacteria and fungi.
Similar to COVID-19, these bacteria and fungi prey on frail seniors and those with compromised immune systems, according to a New York Times analysis published Wednesday. Amid an all-consuming focus on the coronavirus, the emphasis on cleaning rooms and changing gowns has taken a back seat, experts said.
“Seeing the world as a one-pathogen world is really problematic,” Susan S. Huang, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, told the media outlet. “We have every reason to believe the problem has gotten worse.”
Some data have reinforced her fears, including isolated outbreaks of various drug-resistant infections in Florida, New Jersey and California, as well as in India, Italy, Peru and France. Overall figures, however, have been difficult to track because many nursing homes simply stopped screening for the germs as resources were diverted to COVID-19.
Huang and other experts said they are not suggesting that the priority on fighting COVID-19 was misplaced. Rather, they pointed to the need for renewed attention to drug-resistant germs.