Recently, a report by the USA TODAY disclosed that a superbug is running rampant across the United States in hospitals and other nursing facilities. This superbug is attacking the weak and most vulnerable without much help from the scientific community in stopping the epidemic.
The bacteria, known as Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, named thus for their ability to fight off carbapenem antibiotics, which is the strongest antibiotics known to man.
Too many times, doctors try one antibiotic after another in the hopes of stopping the bacteria with no results whatsoever. This bacterium has hit many times more than the general public has been told. As a matter of fact, the first report news report was when a 16 year died from the bacteria during the summer months. The truth as reported by USA Today is that there have been thousands of cases throughout the last ten years. There was a large outbreak in which seven people died but this not mentioned on the news at all.
These superbugs can be found in pneumonia, intestinal infections, and urinary tract infections. These bacteria when it hits claims around 40% of its prey. The sad news is that if this bacteria finds it way out of the hospital setting and onto other health care facilities or out on the streets, the death toll could be even more dramatic.
“From the perspective of drug-resistant organisms, (CRE) is the most serious threat, the most serious challenge we face to patient safety,” says Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for prevention of health care-associated infections at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.*¹
USA Examination Revealed
The USA Today Examination revealed that Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections are already widespread in major cities in America, which includes Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York with hundreds of confirmed cases. A few smaller infections have also been discovered in South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oregon.
The report explained that there is no national data on just how big a problem the CRE infection is across the US. “We don’t have enough … data to tell what the trend looks like,” says Stephen Ostroff, director of epidemiology at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “All we know is that it is here.”*²
The report showed that the chances of producing an effective drug that will kill the CRE bacteria in the next few years are slim.
One major concern found in the examination is that several hospital as well as nursing homes do not have the lab capability to identify the bacteria.
Good News on the Way
Mark Walker the director of the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre at the University of Queensland stated that a new technology would allow medical staff to discover in patients had contracted bugs that were identical. This new technology is genome mapping.
This new technology would allow tracing of the source of an infection, which could make it easier for health workers to work on the resources available to stop the bacteria from spreading.
“What we’ve done is demonstrated that the technology is able to answer questions that could not previously be asked,” Walker told AFP after his research was published in the US journal Science. “That has potential to answer specific questions in the hospital setting that will help in controlling… hospital acquired infections.”*³
By taking a sample from an infected person and then sequencing, the genome a researcher has more than 3 million base pieces of paired genetic data. This can then be compared to the sequence to others to determine if they have the same bug. Learning if the bug is identical can help confirm if patients are contracting the bug while in the hospital and if the bug is transferred from one patient to another.
Eli Perencevich a infectious disease doctor at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine is more concerned that medical profession does not have much ammunition to stop the spread of the infections. If the bacteria spreads it threatens health care in various ways especially those that rely on controlling infections in their patients which include chemotherapy and organ transplants.
The results of the research from the very first case of CRE to the present ones are giving scientists some data that may help them learn what patients are more susceptible to contracting the bacteria, however, this is not bringing a new antibiotic to the table. It may allow more control by screening those that may be at more risk, but at this time, the superbugs are there and lurking in the dark until more research can be done to determine how these superbugs are infecting patients.