Health Care

'Nightmare' bacteria cases found in 27 states, says CDC

'Nightmare' bacteria cases found in 27 states, says CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected more than 220 cases previous year of a rare breed of "nightmare bacteria" that are virtually untreatable and capable of spreading genes that make them impervious to most antibiotics, according to a report released Tuesday.

CDC has implemented the nationwide Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network (ARLN) to facilitate prompt analysis of bacterial samples forwarded by local and state health departments.

The report focused on the new and highly resistant germs that have yet to spread widely.

"Unusual resistance germs, which are resistant to all or most antibiotics tested and are uncommon or carry special resistance genes, are constantly developing and spreading", the CDC team writes for their in-house journal, Vital Signs. In many cases, others in close contact with these patients also harbored the superbugs even though they weren't sick - a risk for further spread. They include carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which encompass a range of bacteria, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli.

Antibiotics are the safety net for most cancer treatments, surgical procedures, and ICU care and organ transplants, "said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director at the CDC".

"Germs do more than spread and cause infections in people", she explained.

Although the CDC has warned of the danger of antibiotic-resistant bacteria for years, the new report helps illustrate the scope of the problem. An antibiotic-resistant bacteria, they said, could utterly devastate entire populations, and potentially lead to utter catastrophe.

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Once antibiotic resistance takes hold, it can spread like wildfire, making it extremely hard to control, the CDC warns. The AR Lab Network is crucial for this effort, as it allows for a coordinated response from several healthcare facilities, labs, health departments, and members of the CDC itself.

It first calls for rapid identification of the bacteria by using infection control assessments, testing in persons who may contain the germ but not show symptoms and continued infection control assessments.

It's not a "one and done" deal, Srinivasan said.

Doctors and scientists have been warning us for years that the overuse of antibiotics could result in a "super bug".

Because it was the first time that data from the ARLN were available, Schuchat said there is no way to tell if the number of what she called "unusual" bacteria in US health care centers is trending up or down. Together, these experts can help to ensure that all of the right measures are in place to keep the organism from spreading and, when needed, can arrange for testing of other patients to look for silent spread of resistance.

"We have a number of clinical societies we are working with actively, making direct outreach to providers through hospital associations to make sure providers know what they need to do and what resources are available", Srinivasan told MedPage Today.