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Antimicrobial stewardship in COVID-19 patients: those who sow will reap even through hard times

Sibani M, Canziani LM, Tonolli C, Armellini M, Carrara E, Mazzaferri F, Conti M, Save Working Group, Mazzariol A, Micheletto C, Dalbeni A, Girelli D, Tacconelli E

Background: Since the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic emerged, antimicrobial stewardship (AS) activities need to be diverted into COVID-19 management.

Methods: In order to assess the impact of COVID-19 on AS activities, we analyzed changes in antibiotic consumption in moderate-to-severe COVID-19 patients admitted to four units in a tertiary-care hospital across three COVID-19 waves. The AS program was introduced at the hospital in 2018. During the first wave, COVID-19 forced the complete withdrawal of hospital AS activities. In the second wave, antibiotic guidance calibration for COVID-19 patients was implemented in all units, with enhanced stewardship activities in Units 1, 2, and 3 (intervention units). In a controlled before and after study, antimicrobial usage during the three waves of the COVID-19 pandemic was compared to the 12-month prepandemic unit (Unit 4 acted as the control). Antibiotic consumption data were analyzed as the overall consumption, stratified by the World Health Organization AWaRe classification, and expressed as defined-daily-dose (DDD) and days-of-therapy (DOT) per 1000 patient-day (PD).

Results: In the first wave, the overall normalized DOT in units 2-4 significantly exceeded the 2019 level (2019: 587 DOT/1000 PD ± 42.6; Unit 2: 836 ± 77.1; Unit 3: 684 ± 122.3; Unit 4: 872, ± 162.6; p < 0.05). After the introduction of AS activities, consumption decreased in the intervention units to a significantly lower level when compared to 2019 (Unit 1: 498 DOT/1000 PD ± 49; Unit 2: 232 ± 95.7; Unit 3: 382 ± 96.9; p < 0.05). Antimicrobial stewardship activities resulted in a decreased amount of total antibiotic consumption over time and positively affected the watch class and piperacillin-tazobactam use in the involved units.

Conclusions: During a pandemic, the implementation of calibrated AS activities represents a sound investment in avoiding inappropriate antibiotic therapy.

Keywords: COVID-19; antibiotic consumption; antimicrobial stewardship.

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