On COVID-19 wards around the world, infection prevention and control policies have been modified to protect patients and staff from transmission of SARS-CoV-2. These include Personal Protective Equipment, and the types and doses of antibiotics that a patient receives whilst on the ward. We want to know whether these changes make a patient more (or less) likely to catch other infections whilst they are in hospital. If patients catch bacterial infections on the wards, it is likely that they have been passed between others on the ward and an increased chance that they are resistant to more than one antibiotic.
To do this, we are taking samples from patients who have developed a bacterial infection whilst on the ward and culturing them, so that we can identify any bacteria that might be causing these infections. We then test these bugs with different antibiotics, to see whether they are resistant, or susceptible to (can be killed by) the antibiotics. We will then take the genetic material of the bacteria which are resistant and sequence them (this means we’ll be identifying the unique code of each one) and comparing all our bacteria, to see whether they may have been sharing their antibiotic resistance genes with each other whilst on the wards!
We hope that our findings will help countries with their infection prevention and control policies for COVID-19 wards, so that they can protect staff and patients not only from COVID-19, but also from antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can be very hard to treat! We also hope that we can use our collection of antibiotic resistant bacteria to create a protocol that doctors can use to quickly identify potential outbreaks of resistant bacteria on wards, using sequencing, which may reduce the number of patients getting sick.
Follow us on Twitter @AmrCovid for updates, photos and information on what we find!
Dr Linzy Elton is a research associate working for the Pan-African Network for Rapid Research, Response and Preparedness for Infectious Disease Epidemics (PANDORA-ID-NET) consortium and the Networks of Excellence for Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV/AIDs, to develop and strengthen effective outbreak response capacities across Africa.