A storm of epic proportions is brewing. No, not your typical rain storm, but a bacterial storm in which antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” threaten to take over hospitals, critical care facilities, and various other elements of the healthcare system where sick patients traditionally go to get better. According to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an increasing number of patients are getting sick at hospitals, very sick. And unless drastic measures are taken now to stem this tide of life-threatening illness that is sweeping the nation, millions of people could potentially die from developing lethal superbug infections.
It is a problem we have written about extensively here –antibiotic resistance and the increasing number of mutating bacterial strains that fall into this category. But some of the latest research on the subject published in the CDC journal, Vital Signs, offers shocking new insight into just how bad the problem is becoming. According to the latest figures, antibiotic-resistant superbugs have spread to virtually every state in the country, and in the first half of 2012, nearly 200 hospitals and long-term acute care facilities nationwide reported treating at least one superbug-infected patient.
“CRE are nightmare bacteria,” says CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., referring to one specific superbug bacteria strain known as Carbapanem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CAE), which kills up to half of all patients who get infected with it. “Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections. Doctors, hospital leaders, and public health must work together now to implement CDC’s ‘detect and protect’ strategy and stop these infections from spreading.”
Superbug infections rates rising exponentially, reveals CDC data
Though CRE bacteria are not yet considered to be common on a national scale, the CDC report says their prevalence has been increasing dramatically. Within the past 10 years, prevalence of CRE superbugs has risen a shocking 400 percent. And one specific variety of CRE, known as Klebsiella pneumoniae, has reportedly increased in prevalence by a whopping 700 percent within the past decade. As far as where these infections are turning up the most, experts say the northeastern U.S. is a major hot spot.
“We’re losing ground because we are not developing new drugs in pace with superbugs’ ability to develop resistance to them,” says Dr. Helen W. Boucher, M.D., lead author of another recent study on superbug prevalence. “We’re on the precipice of returning to the dark days before antibiotics enabled safer surgery, chemotherapy and the care of premature infants. We’re all at risk.”
According to the CDC, however, these is still some hope. One major component of the agency’s “detect and protect” strategy involves having medical facilities request to be alerted by laboratories every time a patient infected with a superbug is identified. Medical facilities are also being encouraged to curb their use of antibiotics, as overuse, both in medicine and factory food, has contributed in major ways to the emergence and spread of superbugs.
“We have seen in outbreak after outbreak that when facilities and regions follow CDC’s prevention guidelines, CRE can be controlled and even stopped,” says Dr. Michael Bell, M.D., acting director of the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “As trusted health care providers, it is our responsibility to prevent further spread of these deadly bacteria.”
Sources for this article include:
- Researchers study coconut oil as a natural treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, severe burns
- Toxic ingredient in disinfectants can give rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, birth defects and more
- Turmeric may be the key to preventing diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be hiding in some leafy greens, warn researchers