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article imageSuperbug known as the 'Phantom Menace' on the rise in U.S.

By Karen Graham     Dec 4, 2015 in Health
According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday, a dangerous superbug, dubbed the "phantom menace" is on the rise in the United States.
Health officials are keeping a very close eye on an antibiotic-resistant bacteria called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). Although it is now being considered rare, it still has the potential to become more prevalent.
These particular bacterias, besides being resistant to most antibiotics, are often resistant to "last line of defense" antibiotics, like carbapenems. The bugs can include Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli, as well as other bacteria, reports the Washington Post.
CRE's can be difficult to treat because of their resistance to antibiotics, and the mortality rate is as much as 50 percent, according to the CDC. An interesting report in Digital Journal in 2014 showed that CRE cases had risen five-fold in some parts of the U.S. The CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, called CREs "nightmare bacteria."
What makes the "Phantom menace" more deadly?
This CRE bacteria is different than other CREs because it carries something called a plasmid. A plasmid is a mobile piece of DNA that carries an enzyme, in this case, OXA-48-like carbapenemases that breaks down antibiotics. However, this devious bug goes one step further. It can transfer that plasmid and its antibiotic resistance to the normal bacteria in the body.
How dangerous is this? The CDC report noted the bacteria found in China last month and the ones in the new report, which both have key resistance genes contained on plasmids, "are of greatest public health concern because of their potential for rapid global dissemination,"
Digital Journal featured a story in November on the bacteria found in China that also carried a gene dubbed the MCR-1 gene, that gave the bacteria a resistance to Colistin, an antibiotic used routinely in animal husbandry in China, but considered a "last line of defense" drug elsewhere.
According to the report, there is no need to panic because most of the cases seen so far were in people who had traveled outside the U.S, with India being the most frequent travel spot. Interestingly, of those who had traveled abroad, 16 people were hospitalized overseas, leading to the belief that foreign hospitals could be the source of infection.
As is usual in these types of reports involving antibiotics, it is prudent for doctors and the general public to avoid the indiscriminate use of antimicrobials if at all possible.
To read the full CDC report, "Notes from the Field: Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae Producing OXA-48-like Carbapenemases — United States, 2010–2015," visit the CDCs Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
More about phantom menace, Superbug, resistance to antibiotics, CRE, OXA48like carbapenemases
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