A particularly dangerous superbug, dubbed the “phantom menace” by scientists, is on the rise in the United States, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Report (MMR) issued this week by the CDC. You have to have the sense that any bug with that nickname has gotta be pretty bad!
This superbug’s strains belong to the family of bacteria, Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, and for obvious reasons, more commonly referred to as CRE. CRE is difficult to treat because they are often resistant to most antibiotics and for that reason have very high mortality…killing up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. Health officials have called CRE among the country’s most urgent public health threats.
The subject of the MMR describes a new version that carries a plasmid, or mobile piece of DNA, with an enzyme that breaks down antibiotics. And what makes these bacteria even more dangerous is their ability to transfer that plasmid–and that antibiotic resistance–to normal bacteria that are present in our bodies.
But wait, it gets better.
In a related alarming development, Danish researchers this week that a dangerous new superbug gene discovered in China two weeks ago had been found in bacteria infecting one person in Denmark. The gene makes the bacteria resistant to colistin, the antibiotic of last resort. And similar to the ‘phantom menace’ type of CRE, the gene is contained in a plasmid.
Reread that last paragraph and just think about it…China, and two weeks later, Denmark. Wow!
Experts warned that the latest development was frightening citing that these mobile resistance genes can spread around the world quickly, silently riding in people, animals and food.