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The CDC Is Warning About Resistant "Nightmare Bacteria" Spreading Through The US

The worst kind of antibiotic resistance has arrived.

JACINTA BOWLER
4 APR 2018
 

You've probably read about antibiotic resistance at some point, but sometimes it's hard to stress just how important this issue is, especially when it feels like a far off problem.

 

So how about this – each year, over 23,000 Americans die because of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year, nationwide tests discovered 221 instances of 'unusual' germs - bugs resistant to all, or most antibiotics tested on it.

This is no longer a far-off problem – it's something hospitals are fighting right now.

"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.

"Lab tests uncovered unusual resistance more than 200 times in 2017 in "nightmare bacteria" alone."

Nightmare bacteria are bacteria that are either nearly, or fully untreatable.

The study found that one in four samples sent into the lab for testing had bacteria with special genes that allowed them to spread resistance to other bacteria.

Not only that, but in facilities that had these bacteria with unusual genes, about 1 in 10 symptomless people who were screened had at least one resistant bug.

 

These people can pass on the resistant bacteria, effectively becoming a silent carrier of an illness.

"CDC's study found several dangerous pathogens, hiding in plain sight, that can cause infections that are difficult or impossible to treat," said CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat.

So, what can we do? Many researchers are working on developing more antibiotics, or ways of stopping bacteria without antibiotics, but the CDC is urging hospitals and healthcare providers to stay on top of the problem as well.

"As fast as we have run to slow [antibiotic] resistance, some germs have outpaced us," Schuchat said to Kaiser Health News.

"We need to do more and we need to do it faster and earlier."

The paper recommends rapid identification of bacteria to check for resistance, completing infection control assessments, and testing those without symptoms who may also carry and spread the germs.

This is on top of the advice already provided by the CDC to do with correct use to antibiotics, both in prescribing, and taking them - for example, not using antibiotics when you have a viral infection like the common cold or the flu.

 

But there is some good news as well - the CDC lab network "is working at an absolutely high level of effectiveness," said William Schaffner, from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine to Kaiser Health News.

"It's identifying problems with great precision and initiating the appropriate response with the local health department and hospital staff."

"That's the 'good news spin' bun around a scary hot dog," he added.

Let's just hope we find a better solution hot dog ASAP.

The research has been published in Vital Signs.

 

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