Australian scientists have discovered a super bug that is resistant to all known antibiotics.
The bug, Staphylococcus epidermidis, is commonly found on human skin, and researchers have discovered strains in Europe that have mutated and spread in hospitals. The bacteria doesn’t always lead to infection, but in hospitalized patients whose immune systems are weakened, the super bug presents a greater threat.
Doctors discovered an otherwise healthy patient who became seriously ill as a result of a hospital-acquired infection. When the patient developed complications following a simple elective procedure, doctors knew something was wrong.
Researchers have not yet determined how the super bug is spreading internationally, but they point to the overuse of antibiotics as a contributing factor in the rise of the bacteria. Until now, researchers were more concerned with super bugs like MRSA, commonly known as golden staph.
Experts have identified three strains of the bacteria which are resistant to two separate antibiotics. The team analyzed samples from 78 hospitals worldwide, and found that the bug made small changes in its DNA that caused it to be resistant to the two antibiotics most commonly prescribed to treat hospital infections.
In Australia, one in four antimicrobial drugs were inappropriately prescribed, and half the prescriptions in nursing homes were used improperly.
Researchers believe the super bug is spreading quickly because of the high use of antibiotics in intensive care units, where strong drugs are used to treat extremely sick patients. The study authors say that the practice of using multiple drugs to combat resistance is failing.
More and more experts are calling for hospitals to do more to prevent the rise of untreatable infections. Specifically, experts note the need for hospitals to ask incoming patients about foreign travel and recent hospitalizations.
In 2017, a woman in Reno, Nevada, died from an incurable infection that spread throughout her body. Testing showed that the super bug in her system could fend off 26 different antibiotics.
The woman had broken her femur and had been hospitalized in India for a bone infection. She was infected with a gut bacteria that was resistant to all the drug options the hospital had available.
Doctors sent a sample to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and researchers noted that nothing available to U.S. doctors would have cured the infection.
The super bug threat is recognized internationally, and experts predict that the bug could kill 10 million people a year by 2050 if it’s left unchecked.
These infections are most common in India, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world with inadequate sanitary facilities. As people cross borders and board airplanes, the bacteria spreads to new regions.
Alex Barker is a full-time Pharmacist, media company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He is also is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps busy professionals build successful side businesses.