CDC: 'Nightmare bacteria' showing up in U.S.

By Allen Cone  |  April 3, 2018 at 3:52 PM
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April 3 (UPI) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday has issued a warning that a "nightmare bacteria" resistant to most antibiotics is showing up in parts of the United States.

The federal agency identified antibiotic-resistant genes 221 times in 2017. And 11 percent of people screened for these superbugs carried them, even though they had no symptoms, the CDC said Tuesday in the it's Vital Signs journal.

"CDC's study found several dangerous pathogens, hiding in plain sight, that can cause infections that are difficult or impossible to treat," Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC principal deputy director, said in a press release.

More than 23,000 Americans die each year from infections caused by germs resistant to antibiotics, the agency says.

In 2016, the UN General Assembly met about the issue of antibiotic resistance, just the fourth time it has done so regarding a health concern -- the first three times were focused on HIV, noncommunicable diseases and Ebola.

"Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development, and security," Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of World Health Organization said in a statement. "The commitments made today must now be translated into swift, effective, lifesaving actions across the human, animal, and environmental health sectors. We are running out of time."

Drug resistant infections will kill an additional 10 million people a year worldwide by 2050 unless action is taken, according to a 2014 study by the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, a nongovernment advocacy group. That's more than currently die from cancer.

According to the CDC, germs with unusual resistance "include those that cannot be killed by all or most antibiotics, are uncommon in a geographic area or the U.S., or have specific genes that allow them to spread their resistance to other germs."

One in four germ samples sent to the CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Lab Network had special genes allowing them to spread their resistance to other germs, the CDC said in the new report.

"Once antibiotic resistance spreads, it is harder to control-like a wildfire," the CDC said.

The CDC has developed a system of rapid detection of samples with state health departments and labs. Then, hospitals, clinics and other facilities can isolate patients infected with them.

"With new resources nationwide, early and aggressive action -- when even a single case is found -- can keep germs with unusual resistance from spreading in health care facilities and causing hard-to-treat or even untreatable infections," the CDC said. "For example, CDC estimates show that this aggressive approach could prevent 1,600 cases of CRE in one state over three years."

If they are not caught quickly they can be more difficult to stop.

"It's reassuring to see that state and local experts, using our containment strategy, identified and stopped these resistant bacteria before they had the opportunity to spread," Schuchat said.

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