CDC: 'Nightmare' Superbugs Are Here

Hunt found more than 200 cases of antibiotic-resistant bacteria last year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 4, 2018 9:21 AM CDT
"Pseudomonas aeruginosa" bacteria, one of the germs that can evolve to resist antibiotics.   (CDC via AP, File)

(Newser) – "Nightmare bacteria" with unusual resistance to antibiotics of last resort were found more than 200 times in the US last year in a first-of-a-kind hunt to see how much of a threat these rare cases have become. That's more than health officials expected to find, and the true number is likely higher as the effort involved only certain labs in each state, per the AP. The problem mostly strikes people in hospitals and nursing homes who need IVs and other contamination-prone tubes. Some 11% of those in close contact with these patients also harbored the superbugs even though they weren't sick—a risk for more spread. Some of the sick patients had traveled for surgery or other health care to countries where drug-resistant germs are more common, and the superbugs were discovered after they returned to the US. "Essentially, we found nightmare bacteria in your backyard," said the CDC's Anne Schuchat.

"These verge on untreatable infections" where the only option may be supportive care—fluids and sometimes machines to maintain life to give the patient a chance to recover, Schuchat said. About 2 million Americans get infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and 23,000 die, Schuchat said. Last year, public health labs around the country were asked to watch for and quickly respond to cases of advanced antibiotic resistance, especially to some last-resort antibiotics called carbapenems. In the first nine months of the year, more than 5,770 samples were tested for these "nightmare bacteria," as the CDC calls them, and one quarter were found to have genes that make them hard to treat and easy to share their resistance with other types of bacteria. Of these, 221 had unusual genes that conferred resistance. The cases were scattered throughout 27 states.

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |  
4%
6%
5%
1%
82%
2%