A Deadly Superbug Appears to Be Invading America's Hospitals

Helen Branswell | The Week | January 23, 2017

A deadly superbug appears to be invading America's hospitals

A dangerous type of superbug has more tricks up its sleeves than we may be giving it credit for, a recent study suggests. The researchers found that this class of bacteria, CREs — that's short for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae — has more ways to evade antibiotics than have been currently identified, and that these bugs share their tricks readily across the families of bacteria that make up this grouping.

Further, the authors suggest these bacteria may be spreading more stealthily than existing surveillance can detect. "You know the phrase 'Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?' The horse has not only bolted, the horse has had a lot of ponies, and they're eating all our carrots," said Bill Hanage, an infectious diseases epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and senior author of the study.

Hanage and colleagues from Harvard and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard took an in-depth look at CREs recovered from patients in three Boston hospitals and a hospital in Irvine, Calif. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has dubbed CREs "nightmare bacteria." That's because they are resistant to many, and sometimes most, antibiotics, including carbapenems, an important class of last-resort drugs..