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.
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