Superbugs pose greatest threat to human health

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“Superbug” bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics have the potential to create a nightmare scenario for modern medicine, but experts are hopeful that doctors will be able to slow the spread of these scary infections, by both traditional means and new innovations.
Recently, a Los Angeles hospital announced that more than 100 patients treated there had potentially been exposed to CRE, or carbapenem resistant enterobacteriaceae, bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics. The bacteria appear to have contaminated a piece of medical equipment used at the facility called an endoscope, which is a flexible tube that doctors use to view the digestive tract. Seven patients at the hospital were infected with CRE after they underwent an endoscopy with the device.
Endoscopies are generally considered to be low-risk procedures, but two of the patients died from their infections, the hospital said.
As antibiotic-resistant bacteria like CRE become more common, they threaten the safety of modern medicine, because they can make routine procedures more risky, experts told Live Science.
“Lots of procedures that go on in hospitals … are made safer be-cause we use antibiotics,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and a senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Health Security. “If antibiotic resistance continues to increase, all of the stuff that’s part of modern medicine and done routinely will become more dangerous,” Adalja said.
CRE have been dubbed “night-mare” bacteria, because they are resistant to nearly all antibiotics, and they can be highly lethal, killing up to 50 percent of infected pa-tients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CRE infections first appeared in the United States only in 2001, and have increased in recent years. A CDC study found that in 2012, nearly 5 percent of U.S. hospitals, and 18 percent of long-term care facilities reported having at least one patient with CRE.
To reduce the spread of CRE and other superbugs, it’s important for doctors to change how they use antibiotics, and for researchers to come up with new alternatives to fight these infections, experts said.
CRE are essentially “normal” bac-teria that have acquired the ability to produce enzymes that work against most antibiotics.