Via STAT, Helen Branswell writes: Dangerous superbug appears to be spreading stealthily in US hospitals. Excerpt:
A dangerous type of superbug has more tricks up its sleeves than we may be giving it credit for, a new study suggests.
The researchers found that this class of bacteria, CREs — that’s short for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae — has more ways to evade antibiotics than have been currently identified, and that these bugs share their tricks readily across the families of bacteria that make up this grouping.
Further, the authors suggest these bacteria may be spreading more stealthily than existing surveillance can detect.
“You know the phrase ‘Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?’ The horse has not only bolted, the horse has had a lot of ponies, and they’re eating all our carrots,” said Bill Hanage, an infectious diseases epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and senior author of the study.
Hanage and colleagues from Harvard and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard took an in-depth look at CREs recovered from patients in three Boston hospitals and a hospital in Irvine, Calif. Their findings are published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has dubbed CREs “nightmare bacteria.” That’s because they are resistant to many, and sometimes most, antibiotics, including carbapenems, an important class of last-resort drugs.
They also have the capacity to transfer resistance genes from one family to the next — for instance from E. coli bacteria to Klebsiella pneumoniae. Think of it as gangs in a neighborhood teaching each other all their worst tricks.
According to CDC estimates, CREs cause 9,300 infections a year in the US and 600 deaths. They vary in their ability to fend off antibiotics; a report last week revealed a woman in Nevada died last September from a CRE infection that could not be treated with the antibiotics available in the United States.