A "superbug"—deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacterium—rampaged through a Maryland hospital last year, killing six patients. The revelation was not made public until today, notes the Washington Post. It all began in June 2011, when a patient harboring the superbug known as Klebsiella pneumoniae checked into the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center. Staff at the research hospital took extreme measures to isolate her and contain the bacteria. Everything seemed fine when she left the next month, until a few weeks passed and another patient tested positive for the superbug. And then a third and fourth, all of whom died.
More patients soon contracted it, and for the next six months, hospital staff quarantined them and literally constructed a wall around them. They threw out medical gear after a single use, doused rooms with powerful vaporized disinfectant, and hired teams of monitors to ensure doctors and nurses were scrubbing their hands, reports the Post. But the superbug continued to spread, eventually infecting 17 patients. Eleven of them died, but only six of the deaths can be attributed directly to the superbug. New cases finally ceased in January, and none have been reported since. The NIH is now using the breakout to help educate other hospitals around the country.