Just months before the novel coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S., antibiotic stewardship program developers were basking in the glory of helping halve the use of the medications inside skilled nursing facilities.

Now, just a few months into it, providers are throwing everything at COVID-19 and its other associated infections. 

“I’ve heard they’re using more antimicrobials than they have historically because a lot of people are dying from bacterial pneumonia, which is a viral respiratory infection,” said Marti Wdowicki, PharmD, director of Clinical Operations for PharMerica, which produced a successful antibiotic stewardship program acquired by many organizations even outside of its own client base. 

The science community is clear on one thing: Antibiotic treatment for COVID-19 complications could fuel resistant bacteria, which adds even more complexity to an already chaotic generational event like COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is a rapidly emerging pathogen that has challenged our healthcare system in many ways,” said Rosie Lyles, M.D., director of clinical affairs at Medline, which is helping healthcare providers of all kinds develop strategies to effectively optimize the supply of personal protective equipment.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) responded by providing board-certified consultants and complimentary access to several areas of APIC Text, a highly lauded subscription-based online platform, said Elizabeth Garman, APIC’s vice president, communications and practice resources.

In some of the early days of the pandemic, PharMerica engaged SNF nursing directors in COVID-19 infection control-focused surveys. Wdowicki said facilities of all types reported receiving several weekly phone calls from surveyors with questions about COVID-19 infection control. “Their biggest concern was hand hygiene,” Wdowicki said.

For many vendors, the infection control implications are clear.

“There is a consensus, I believe, that antimicrobial stewardship is going to be even more important when we emerge from this crisis,” Wdowicki said.