Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified more than 200 cases of bacteria that could resist nearly all antibiotics, the agency reported today.
The CDC said that these “nightmare bacteria” are resistant to all or most antibiotics and are making their way through the country. In one assessment, a lab discovered that 1 in 4 germ samples had a gene that enabled them to spread their resistance to other germs.
“Resistance genes with the capacity to turn regular germs into nightmare bacteria have been introduced into many states, but with an aggressive response, we’ve been able to stomp them out promptly,” CDC’s principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat, told The Hill.
“As fast as we have run to slow [antibiotic] resistance, some germs have outpaced us,” she said. “We’ve had some success, but it isn’t enough to turn the tide. We need to do more and we need to do it faster and earlier.”
The agency noted that it’s “not currently possible” to stop new resistance from developing, as germs are constantly evolving and finding ways to resist antibiotics.
The problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is not a theoretical one – at least 23,000 Americans die annually from infections due to resistant germs, according to the CDC.
The agency’s containment strategy involves quickly identifying resistance and testing asymptomatic patients who may be carrying, and therefore spreading, the resistant germ.
“The strategy requires a coordinated response among health care facilities, labs, health departments and CDC through the AR Lab Network. Health departments using the approach have conducted infection control assessments and colonization screenings within 48 hours of finding unusual resistance and have reported no further transmission during follow-up over several weeks,” the CDC said in a release.