CDC report: U.S. deaths from 'superbugs' jumped 15% in 2020

July 13, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed back years of progress made combating antimicrobial resistance in the U.S., as deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections as well as resistant hospital-onset infections both jumped 15% in 2020, according to a CDC report.

In the report, CDC analyzed the state of antimicrobial resistance in the U.S. immediately following the 2020 peaks of the pandemic. The data show an alarming increase in resistant infections starting during hospitalization among seven pathogens, including carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter, multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

According to the CDC, more than 29,400 people died from antimicrobial-resistant infections during the first year of the pandemic and of those, nearly 40% had acquired the infection in the hospital. Every year, more than 1.2 million people worldwide die from antibiotic-resistant infections, and if no action is taken, it’s estimated this number will grow to 10 million per year by 2050.

The pace of innovative drug development has slowed to a crawl, while older antibiotics are rapidly losing ground in the fight against bacteria. While using antibiotics sparingly and in a short duration can help preserve their effectiveness, this also makes it extremely challenging for companies to generate a viable return on investment for the innovations they bring to market. And given that the bulk of the players in the antibiotics biz is smaller biotechs, the risk of going belly up, even with a successful product, is very real.

Fixing the broken market now hinges on policy reform. While the leading bills on Capitol Hill would bring tangible relief in the form of financial incentives, the real game-changer lies in the global message the U.S. would send by passing them: The antibiotics market is viable, profitable and no longer ablaze.

Read more about this in our recent cover story, Pulling antibiotics from the fire.