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‘Nightmare Bacteria’ Is An Epidemic In At Least 27 US States: What Could Happen If It Continues To Spread?

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In light of the growing concerns of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to contain infections in affected states.

The development of antibiotics has worked wonders in treating severe illnesses since the 1940s, but its frequent use has reduced its efficacy over time. This had led to the mutation of drug-resistant microbes that render doctors and clinicians with limited options to treat diseases.

The CDC estimates that at least 2 million Americans are infected with the so-called nightmare bacteria, and more than 23,000 die each year from these infections.

What is even more disconcerting is that scientists have discovered that germs that are resistant to antibiotics have the capability to infect other good bacteria.

More Than Just Spreading Infections

Antibiotic resistance has become a national public health concern. The genes present in antimicrobial-resistance bacteria do not only cause or spread infections. Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at CDC, said what is even more alarming is that the affected genes can share their ability to other healthier antibodies.

A study published 2016 in the Clinical Microbiology and Infection reported that the magnitude of the adverse effects caused by antibiotic resistance span both the healthcare and economic aspects. Patients with untreatable diseases face higher mortality and morbidity rates. Families incur billions of dollars spent on medicines and hospitalizations.

"Resistance frequently leads to delays in the administration of effective therapy, and a mismatch between empirical therapy and subsequent antibiotic susceptibility test results is the most significant factor in delaying effective therapy," the researchers reported in their study.

This means that patients who are infected with superbugs are less likely to receive matching treatments and have chances of complete recovery.

The Office of Technology Assessment calculated that the cost of antibiotic resistance amounts to $4 billion annually based on the 1995 dollar pricing. This does include other coinciding socio-economic ramifications that are expected to increase costs by several-fold.

Reversing The Process

To prevent further widespread of uncontrolled infections, the CDC launched a so-called containment strategy in 2017 led by the Antibiotic Resistance Lab Network. The ARLN reported that of the 5,776 microbes tested in labs, 221 contained "especially rare" resistance genes.

"The bottom line is that resistance genes with the capacity to turn regular germs into nightmare bacteria have been introduced into many states, but with an aggressive response we have been able to stomp them out promptly and stop their spread between people, between facilities and between other germs," said Schuchat.

The containment protocol also included the identification of colonies. Individuals who are near the infected patients tested positive as carriers of the highly resistant nightmare bacteria.

The CDC estimated that the containment strategy will prevent at least 1,600 new infections in the first three years for every affected state. Schuchat said this 76 percent reduction of infection cases will gradually slow down the spread of these types of bacteria.

Dr. Jay Butler, chief medical officer and director of Alaska Division of Public Health, said early intervention is paramount. He added that state and local officials are sharing resources to stop the spread of this threat.

However, Schuchat said it is just the beginning of a lengthy process toward killing antibiotic-resistant germs.

"We need to do more and we need to do it faster and earlier with each new antibiotic resistance threat," Dr. Schuchat urged healthcare providers and public health officials.

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