‘Nightmare Bacteria’ Stalk U.S. Hospitals

[UPDATED at 3:15 p.m. ET on April 3]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected more than 220 cases last year of a rare breed of “nightmare bacteria” that are virtually untreatable and capable of spreading genes that make them impervious to most antibiotics, according to a report released Tuesday.

Although the CDC has warned of the danger of antibiotic-resistant bacteria for years, the new report helps illustrate the scope of the problem. Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, said she was surprised by the extent of the spread.

“As fast as we have run to slow [antibiotic] resistance, some germs have outpaced us,” Schuchat said. “We need to do more and we need to do it faster and earlier.”

The CDC set up a nationwide lab network in 2016 to help hospitals quickly diagnose these infections and stop them from spreading.

2016 report commissioned by the British government and Wellcome Trust called for investing $40 billion over the next decade to fight the problem. About 700,000 people around the world die due to antibiotic resistance each year. Without immediate action, annual deaths could rise to 10 million by 2050, according to the report.

Bacteria naturally evolve to resist drugs used against them. The more the drugs are used, the faster this happens, Osterholm said.

While developing new antibiotics can help, Osterholm compared that approach to “trying to dig yourself out of a hole.”

It’s far more important that countries around the world use antibiotics more judiciously, Osterholm said. Doctors today often prescribe antibiotics when they’re not needed.

In developing nations, patients often buy antibiotics on the street, Osterholm said, noting that antibiotics are also widely used in agriculture.

Vaccines can also help fight antibiotic resistance, he said, by preventing people from ever becoming sick and needing antibiotics.

USA Today. This story can be republished for free (details). >

KHN’s coverage related to aging and improving care of older adults is supported in part by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

[Update: This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. ET on April 3 with more details about the ramifications of the report.]

> Liz Szabo: lszabo@kff.org, @LizSzabo

Source : https://khn.org/news/nightmare-bacteria-stalk-u-s-hospitals/

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