Seniors Disproportionately Affected By Antibiotic-Resistant Infections

A new study shows Medicare-aged patients being treated in hospitals saw more of these types of infections, creating a greater burden on care and costs, and showing an increased mortality rate.

Seniors being treated by the Veterans Affairs health care system experienced more antibiotic-resistant infections, which led to longer hospital stays, increased costs, and greater mortality, according to findings from a new study published today.

Specifically, the study found that antibiotic-resistant infections had an aggregate cost estimated to be $1.9 billion, with 448,224 inpatient days, and 11,852 deaths in 2017.

“The key finding here is that the older population, 65 years and older population, is disproportionately affected by antibiotic-resistant infections,” David Hyun, MD, project director antibiotic resistance project, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and coauthor of the study said. “This really underscores the need for urgent action to tackle antibiotic resistance, especially at the federal government level considering that the majority of the patients in this population have their health care being delivered and managed by Medicare or other federal programs.”

The study was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, and the research was conducted by Pew, the University of Utah, and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

Public health has been aware of the issue of antibiotic-resistant infections for a number of years. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 6 antibiotic-resistant pathogens caused an estimated 30,000 deaths and resulted in $4.6 billion in health care costs in the United States overall.

Examining the CDC and the aggregate numbers from the Veterans Affairs data, this confirms the enormous burden on this older patient population and health care costs as they accounted for over 1/3 of the deaths and a large stake of the costs.

The investigators conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of patients of patients 65 years and older admitted to medical centers in the Veterans Affairs health care system between January 2007 and December 2018.

The analysis included nearly 88,000 patients with positive cultures for multidrug-resistant bacteria and, as controls, approximately 835,000 patients who did not have infections.

Contagion spoke to Hyun about the study’s findings, which antibiotic resistant pathogens created the biggest burdens, strategies to combat the problem, and the effects COVID-19 have had on prescribing antibiotics.