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Open Forum Infect Dis . Bacterial Superinfections Among Persons With Coronavirus Disease 2019: A Comprehensive Review of Data From Postmortem Studies

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  • Open Forum Infect Dis . Bacterial Superinfections Among Persons With Coronavirus Disease 2019: A Comprehensive Review of Data From Postmortem Studies


    Open Forum Infect Dis


    . 2021 Feb 4;8(3):ofab065.
    doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofab065. eCollection 2021 Mar.
    Bacterial Superinfections Among Persons With Coronavirus Disease 2019: A Comprehensive Review of Data From Postmortem Studies


    Cornelius J Clancy 1 , Ilan S Schwartz 2 , Brittany Kula 2 , M Hong Nguyen 1



    Affiliations

    Abstract

    Background: Limited clinical data suggest a ~16% prevalence of bacterial superinfections among critically ill patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
    Methods: We reviewed postmortem studies of patients with COVID-19 published in English through September 26, 2020, for histopathologic findings consistent with bacterial lung infections.
    Results: Worldwide, 621 patients from 75 studies were included. The quality of data was uneven, likely because identifying superinfections was not a major objective in 96% (72/75) of studies. Histopathology consistent with a potential lung superinfection was reported in 32% (200/621) of patients (22-96 years old; 66% men). Types of infections were pneumonia (95%), abscesses or empyema (3.5%), and septic emboli (1.5%). Seventy-three percent of pneumonias were focal rather than diffuse. The predominant histopathologic findings were intra-alveolar neutrophilic infiltrations that were distinct from those typical of COVID-19-associated diffuse alveolar damage. In studies with available data, 79% of patients received antimicrobial treatment; the most common agents were beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitors (48%), macrolides (16%), cephalosoprins (12%), and carbapenems (6%). Superinfections were proven by direct visualization or recovery of bacteria in 25.5% (51/200) of potential cases and 8% of all patients in postmortem studies. In rank order, pathogens included Acinetobacter baumannii, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Lung superinfections were the cause of death in 16% of potential cases and 3% of all patients with COVID-19.
    Conclusions: Potential bacterial lung superinfections were evident at postmortem examination in 32% of persons who died with COVID-19 (proven, 8%; possible, 24%), but they were uncommonly the cause of death.

    Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; bacteria; postmortem; superinfections.

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