A family of “nightmare” superbugs — untreatable and often deadly — is spreading through hospitals across the USA, and doctors fear that it may soon be too late to stop them, senior health officials said Tuesday.
“These are nightmare bacteria that present a triple threat,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They’re resistant to nearly all antibiotics. They have high mortality rates, killing half of people with serious infections. And they can spread their resistance to other bacteria.”
So far, this particular class of superbug, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, has been found only in hospitals or nursing homes, rather than in the community, Frieden said. But officials sounded the alarm partly because, if the bacteria’s spread isn’t contained soon, even common infections could become untreatable.
The superbug tends to strike immune-compromised people who are hospitalized for a long time or living in a nursing home, Frieden said. And CRE doesn’t spread easily from person to person, like the bacteria causing pink eye or strep throat.
These superbugs are “the biggest threat to patient safety in the hospital that we have,” said Costi Sifri, an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at the University of Virginia Health System. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like anything is slowing their spread.”