'Superbug' Must Be Monitored; More Widespread Than Previously Known

First Posted: Jan 19, 2017 04:00 AM EST

A type of bacteria is more widespread in the U.S. hospitals than most people thought. Thus, a new study mentioned that it must be closely monitored as it is feared to be drug-resistant.

The researchers investigated for cases of illness caused by carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) in a sample of four of the hospitals around the U.S. The experts then identified a wide variety of CRE species. Among the four hospitals, three were from the Boston area and one was from California.

In a report by Health Day, the germ family of CRE already caused around 9,300 infections and 600 deaths each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers added that the numbers of the infected are on the rise.

The director of CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden, has named the CRE "nightmare bacteria." It is because of its resistance to carbapenems. The carbapenems are known for the last-resort antibiotics to treat a drug-resistant infection.

In the study, the experts also revealed that the CRE has a wide range of genetic traits that make it resistant to antibiotics. These traits are easily conveyed between various CRE species.

The result published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the CRE is more common than previously believed. Thus, it may be transmitted from person to person without causing any symptoms. So, because of this, the genetic surveillance of the CRE needs to be increased, according to the study author.

Thus, the senior author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, William Hanage, said that, "While the typical focus has been on treating sick patients with CRE-related infections, our new findings suggest that CRE is spreading beyond the obvious cases of the disease. We need to look harder for this unobserved transmission within our communities and health care facilities if we want to stamp it out."

He added that, "The best way to stop CRE making people sick is to prevent transmission in the first place. If it is right that we are missing a lot of transmissions, then only focusing on cases of disease is like playing whack-a-mole; we can be sure the bacteria will pop up again somewhere else," according to CNN.

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