A multicenter analysis of the clinical microbiology and antimicrobial usage in hospitalized patients in the US with or without COVID-19

BMC Infect Dis. 2021 Feb 27;21(1):227. doi: 10.1186/s12879-021-05877-3.


Background: Past respiratory viral epidemics suggest that bacterial infections impact clinical outcomes. There is minimal information on potential co-pathogens in patients with coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) in the US. We analyzed pathogens, antimicrobial use, and healthcare utilization in hospitalized US patients with and without severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Methods: This multicenter retrospective study included patients with > 1 day of inpatient admission and discharge/death between March 1 and May 31, 2020 at 241 US acute care hospitals in the BD Insights Research Database. We assessed microbiological testing data, antimicrobial utilization in admitted patients with ≥24 h of antimicrobial therapy, and length of stay (LOS).

Results: A total of 141,621 patients were tested for SARS-CoV-2 (17,003 [12.0%] positive) and 449,339 patients were not tested. Most (> 90%) patients tested for SARS-CoV-2 had additional microbiologic testing performed compared with 41.9% of SARS-CoV-2-untested patients. Non-SARS-CoV-2 pathogen rates were 20.9% for SARS-CoV-2-positive patients compared with 21.3 and 27.9% for SARS-CoV-2-negative and -untested patients, respectively. Gram-negative bacteria were the most common pathogens (45.5, 44.1, and 43.5% for SARS-CoV-2-positive, -negative, and -untested patients). SARS-CoV-2-positive patients had higher rates of hospital-onset (versus admission-onset) non-SARS-CoV-2 pathogens compared with SARS-CoV-2-negative or -untested patients (42.4, 22.2, and 19.5%, respectively), more antimicrobial usage (68.0, 45.2, and 25.1% of patients), and longer hospital LOS (mean [standard deviation (SD)] of 8.6 [11.4], 5.1 [8.9], and 4.2 [8.0] days) and intensive care unit (ICU) LOS (mean [SD] of 7.8 [8.5], 3.6 [6.2], and 3.6 [5.9] days). For all groups, the presence of a non-SARS-CoV-2 pathogen was associated with increased hospital LOS (mean [SD] days for patients with versus without a non-SARS-CoV-2 pathogen: 13.7 [15.7] vs 7.3 [9.6] days for SARS-CoV-2-positive patients, 8.2 [11.5] vs 4.3 [7.9] days for SARS-CoV-2-negative patients, and 7.1 [11.0] vs 3.9 [7.4] days for SARS-CoV-2-untested patients).

Conclusions: Despite similar rates of non-SARS-CoV-2 pathogens in SARS-CoV-2-positive, -negative, and -untested patients, SARS-CoV-2 was associated with higher rates of hospital-onset infections, greater antimicrobial usage, and extended hospital and ICU LOS. This finding highlights the heavy burden of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare systems and suggests possible opportunities for diagnostic and antimicrobial stewardship.

Keywords: Antibiotics; COVID-19; Coinfection; Epidemiology; Pathogens; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • COVID-19 / microbiology*
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*


  • Anti-Infective Agents