Officials alarmed by rise in superbug reports


Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.

New York

Health officials are reporting an alarming increase in some dangerous superbugs at U.S. hospitals.

These superbugs from a common germ family have become extremely resistant to treatment with antibiotics. Only 10 years ago, such resistance was hardly ever seen in this group.

Infections from these superbugs are still uncommon. But in the first six months of last year, nearly 200 U.S. hospitals — about 4 percent — saw at least one case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent reported last Tuesday.

“I would call them a major threat emerging in our hospitals,” said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an infectious disease expert at the CDC.

Health officials call them “nightmare bacteria” that have now been seen in 42 states and threaten to spread their resistance to more and more of their bacterial brethren.

“We only have a limited window of opportunity to stop spread” of these superbugs, said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. At a press conference last Tuesday, he said he was “sounding an alarm.”

The CDC urged hospital workers to watch for the infections and take steps to prevent passing the germs to other patients.

The report did not include better-known superbugs like the staph infection MRSA or the intestinal bug known as C-diff, which have plagued hospitals.

The bacteria usually live harmlessly in the gut but can cause pneumonia and urinary tract and bloodstream infections if they get into other parts of the bodies of patients with weakened immune systems. As many as half the patients who get the bloodstream infections die, Srinivasan said.

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