Entries in Superbug (6)


Health Officials Keeping Close Watch on Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Health officials are warning of a new disease that could be this generation's version of AIDS, an infection that is resistant to virtually all antibiotics.

News of the superbug known as Klebsiella pneumoniae came out earlier in the week when it was revealed that six people died from bloodstream infections at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center in 2011 despite all efforts to contain the bacteria.

Those who died were cancer patients, people on anti-rejection drugs after organ transplants or suffering from genetic disorders.

Nonetheless, Tara Palmore, an infection control specialist at the Bethesda hospital, admitted the bacteria were "the proverbial superbug that we’ve all worried about for a long time."

Doctor Sarah Browne of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, led a new study on the disease and says "the similarity to AIDS is that it is an immuno deficiency syndrome so patients have a compromised immune system, but the underlying cause of this immune deficiency syndrome is completely different."

While no one is saying that it has ability to spread around the world like AIDS, Browne acknowledges that the superbug's ability to repel antibiotics is cause for concern.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Superbug Dangers in Chicken Linked to Eight Million At-Risk Women

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A growing number of medical researchers say more than eight million women are at risk of difficult-to-treat bladder infections because so-called superbugs -- organisms resistant to antibiotics and that grow in chickens -- are being transmitted to humans in the form of E. coli.

“We’re finding the same or related E. coli in human infections and in retail meat sources, specifically chicken,” says Amee Manges, epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal.

If the medical researchers are right, this is compelling new evidence of a direct link between the pervasive, difficult-to-cure human disease and the antibiotic-fed chicken people buy at the grocery store.

“What this new research shows is, we may in fact know where it’s coming from.  It may be coming from antibiotics used in agriculture,” says Maryn McKenna, reporter for the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

The research is part of a joint investigation by ABC News and Food and the Environment Reporting Network.

The Food and Drug Administration says 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are fed to livestock and even healthy chickens to protect them from disease in cramped quarters.  It also helps the chickens grow bigger and faster.

“We’re particularly interested in chickens.  They, in many cases, are getting drugs from the time that they were in an egg all the way up to the time they are slaughtered,” Manges says.

The chicken industry says there could be other factors, such as overuse of antibiotics by humans, contribuing to the superbugs.  The industry further cautions that there’s no study that has proven a superbug from poultry transfers directly to humans.

Researchers note that a study to prove the latter would be unethical because it would require intentionally exposing women to the bacteria.  They add that there's persuasive evidence that chickens carry bacteria with the highest levels of resistance to medicine.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gonorrhea Becoming Increasingly Resistant to Antibiotics

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Gonorrhea could be on track to becoming the latest potential superbug.

A new editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the concern for the rising rate of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea in the U.S. The increases were most prominent in people living in the western United States and in men who have sex with men.

“There is much to do and the threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authors wrote in the commentary.

Gonorrhea, caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is the second-most common communicable disease in the U.S. More than 600,000 Americans contract the infection each year. Symptoms, which include burning while urinating, discharge, and pain during intercourse, usually appear two to five days after contracting the infection, although in some instances a person who has contracted the infection will not experience any symptoms.

The sexually transmitted disease is currently treated with third-generation cephalosporin, an antibiotic.  While the prevalence of resistance to the drug was about .1 percent in 2006, that number jumped to 1.7 percent by mid-2011, the editorial noted. The CDC first warned about antibiotic resistance among those who contracted gonorrhea in 2010.

But this isn’t the first time gonorrhea showed signs of drug resistance. During the 1940s and the 1980s, the infection showed resistance to the drugs treating the condition. The most jarring part of the problem, authors note, is that the antibiotic used today to treat the infection is the last available drug among the recommended antibiotics by the CDC, when taken along with doxycycline or azithromycin, two other oral antibiotics.

“A major component of the threat is that there really is no backup plan if, most likely, when these more resistant organisms become more prevalent,” said Dr. Kenneth Fife, an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at Indiana University Medical School. “There are very few new drugs that have activity against the gonococcus and no clinical trials to establish the efficacy of the few drugs that might have promise.”

“Based on history, it is unlikely we will be able to prevent an outbreak,” added Fife.  “What we need is some new treatment options so we have a strategy for dealing with these more resistant strains once they become more common.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Overuse of Antibiotics May Cause Long-Term Harm

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While antibiotics have certainly benefited society in myriad ways, an overuse of antibiotics may be changing our entire bacterial makeup, says Dr. Martin Blaser, chairman of the department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center.

In his opinion piece published in the journal Nature, Blaser implores doctors to be more prudent in prescribing antibiotics because of these potential changes, and because over-prescribing can cause antibiotic resistance, which has received much attention in recent years.

"Antibiotics are miraculous," Blaser told ABC News.  "They've changed health and medicine over the last 70 years.  But when doctors prescribe antibiotics, it is based on the belief that there are no long-term effects.  We've seen evidence that suggests antibiotics may permanently change the beneficial bacteria that we're carrying."

In the editorial, Blaser hypothesized that the overuse of antibiotics may even be fueling the "dramatic increase" in many illnesses, including type 1 diabetes, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease by destroying the body's friendly flora, or protective bacteria.

"We need to cut down on excess use," said Blaser.  "Over time, the scientific community has to create a more narrow spectrum of antibiotics to kill specific organisms and not all bacteria, but we don't have those yet."

Dr. Cesar Arias, assistant professor of infectious disease at University of Texas Medical School, wholeheartedly agreed with the editorial.

"We use these without much care and without really thinking," said Arias.  "People go to the doctor for a sore throat, which is usually viral, and they're get antibiotics."

"These drugs affect what we're colonized with, particularly the digestive tract," said Arias.  "If you alter your flora, you can promote certain superbugs to colonize in your gut and get into the bloodstream."

The average American child will receive 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics by the time he is 18 years old, and one-third to one-half of pregnant women will receive them during pregnancy, according to Blaser's report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Develop Particle to Attack Superbugs

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- IBM researchers in San Jose are developing a small solution for a big medical problem. They are cooking up a nano particle to attack superbugs like MRSA which are resistant to traditional antibiotics.

MRSA is a growing strain of drug-resistant bacteria which kills an estimated 19,000 Americans every year. The big breakthrough is 50,000 times smaller than the thickness of human hair.  This happens to be a new class of antimicrobials that are designed to  fight pathogens and infectious disease. The researchers working with these nano particles jokingly refer to them as ninja particles because their attack is fast, effective and precious. The particles have an electromagnetic quality, searching out the cell walls of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Lab tests indicate the nano particles destroy MRSA without affecting healthy or red blood cells.

IBM has partnered with scientists at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore. The hope is that a name known for computer technology can find it's niche in modern medicine. Researchers say they are now talking with pharmaceutical companies. The next goal is to take their science from the lab to human testing.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Deadly Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug Spreads in Southern California

ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- An antibiotic-resistant superbug once thought to be rare is spreading through health-care facilities in Southern California, health officials say.

Roughly 350 cases of Carbapenem-Resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, or CRKP, were been reported in Los Angeles County between June and December of 2010, according to a study from the L.A. County Department of Public Health to be presented April 3 in Dallas at the annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

"These patients tend to be elderly, they are commonly on ventilators and they often stay at the facility for an extended period of time," Dr. Dawn Terashita, medical epidemiologist and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

CRKP joins other superbugs such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, in a league of bacteria that outwits typical antibiotics.

"We develop new drugs to defeat the infections and germs change to get around those drugs and this is one of those cases," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, said Friday.  Besser is a former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's like an arms race and in many ways the germs are winning," he said.

CRKP is not new to California, or the rest of the country for that matter.  The Centers for Disease Control has been tracking it across 35 states since 2009.  It is young, however, compared to MRSA, according to Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director of the CDC's health care-associated, infection-prevention programs.

"But in terms of mortality and morbidity, it's very, very serious," Srinivasan said.  "These infections are more difficult to treat than MRSA."

CRKP is an enterobacterium like salmonella and E. coli.

It is unclear how many cases of the 350 reported by Terashita and colleagues were fatal.  It is also unclear whether the infections stemmed from improper care at long term-care facilities or the frailty of the patients they serve.  But Terashita said infected patients tended to have health problems that often resulting in antibiotic use, which might have made them more susceptible.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio