CDC Sounds Alarm on Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase-Producing EnterobacteriaceaeKlebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase-Producing Enterobacteriaceae

Health officials are reportedly alarmed by the increase in dangerous superbugs reported in U.S. hospitals.

At least five strains of bacteria from a common germ family are resistant to treatment with antibiotics. Highly evolved, this resistance was hardly ever seen in this group just 10 years ago.

“These are nightmare bacteria that present a triple threat," said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "They're resistant to nearly all antibiotics. They have high mortality rates, killing half of people with serious infections. And they can spread their resistance to other bacteria."

An example of how bacteria spreads antibiotic-resistance to other bacteria can be seen in carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella. It is responsible for the NIH outbreak and “can spread the genes that destroy our last antibiotics to other bacteria, such as E. coli, and make E. coli resistant to antibiotics also,” Frieden said.

So far this class of superbug, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, has only been reported in hospitals and nursing homes, according to the CDC report. Unlike the bacteria that causes pink eye or strep throat, CRE doesn’t easily spread from person to person. It also tends to strike immune-compromised people.

Inside the gut, the bacteria can cause pnuemonia. In immune-compromised people it can travel to other parts of the body causing blood and urinary tract infections.

The CRE has been reported in 42 states. While infection appears uncommon, in the first six months of 2012, about 4 percent of U.S. hospitals saw at least one case. However there is no national requirement that hospitals report CRE cases, so those numbers may underestimate the threat.

In the 400 hospitals specializing in long-term care there are more cases, with 18 percent having reports of the super bug.

"I would call them a major threat emerging in our hospitals," said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an infectious disease expert at the CDC. He said that as many as half of the patients that get the bloodstream infection die.

Source: ABC News