New 'superbug' Worries U.S. Doctors

NEW YORK, Sept. 17 (UPI) — Infections that can resist all modern antibiotics are showing up in U.S. hospitals and are spreading outside the country, health officials say.

Hospitals in more than 20 states have reported the drug-resistant bacteria that typically strike the critically ill and can be fatal in 30 to 60 percent of cases, USA Today reported Friday.

And the bacteria can travel and cause outbreaks anywhere in the world, scientists say.

Doctors in Tel Aviv, Israel,are battling an outbreak traced to a patient from northern New Jersey, said Neil Fishman, president of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists.

A gene in the bacteria produces an enzyme that disables antibiotics, including a class of drugs called carbapenam antibiotics that are last-ditch treatments for infections that don’t respond to other drugs.

“We’ve lost our drug of last resort,” Fishman says.

Carbapenam-resistant bacteria are most common in New York and New Jersey but “they’ve now been reported in more than half of the states,” Arjun Srinivasan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The bacteria are more worrisome than another well-known superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, because more drugs are available to treat MRSA, Fishman says.

“When MRSA started to develop 15 years ago, the industry started producing antibiotics now coming onto the market,” he says. “We’re in the same position with (carbapenam-resistant bacteria) as we were with staph aureus 15 years ago, except that the pharmaceutical industry isn’t rushing to produce new drugs.”

One drug that can combat the infections, polymixin, was abandoned years ago because it was toxic to the kidneys, Fishman said.

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