Australian Hospitals on High Alert as Deadly Superbug Spreads

Drug resistant bacteria found in Victorian hospitals

Carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae, also known as CRE, is a multidrug-resistant bacteria lethal to nearly half of those it infects – and it’s been found spreading in Victoria, Australia’s hospitals.

Chief Health Officer Dr. Finn Romanes ordered the area’s hospitals to observe strict infection control methods after laboratory results indicated the growing presence of a particularly deadly kind of CRE known as Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase-producing bacteria (KPC).

“All Victorian health services have been provided with information from the Department of Health & Human Services emphasising the need to ensure all current national standards are in place and being strictly followed,” he said.

Since 2012, 57 patients in Victoria have been infected with KPC. 18 of them died.

@abcnewsMelb was the first to break the news on Twitter.

That wasn’t the only breaking story from Victoria this morning. According to Jon Kaila, crime reporter at the Herald Sun newspaper (@jonkaila), a body washed up on The Twelve Apostles beach.

The timing of the tweets make this feel eerily like the beginning of the apocalypse, but there’s no need for mass panic – yet.  Although CRE has been described as “nightmare bacteria” by CDC head Tom Frieden, it probably won’t be spreading across the world “Contagion” style – it would need to become much more contagious before that.

The primary cause of superbug outbreaks are unfinished antibiotic courses.

According to the CDC, the primary cause of superbug outbreaks are improperly taken antibiotic courses, which usually occurs when a patient stops taking their antibiotics after they’ve felt relief from their symptoms. The nastiest bacteria survive the unfinished course, and hey presto! You’re growing drug resistant bacteria. There is also speculation that antibacterial soaps and gels may be contributing, but there’s little evidence for that. A few scientists do suggest we might be cleaning ourselves a little too much, however.

The nastiest bacteria survive the unfinished course and become drug resistant.

The question of how to deal with superbugs has increasingly plagued medical science.  In “Viruses Vs. Superbugs: A Solution to the Antibiotics Crisis?”, science writer Thomas Hausler suggests the use of phages to kill drug resistant bacteria. Phages are viruses that kill bacteria but are essentially harmless to humans. They were the primary way of fighting bacterial infections before the introduction of penicillin.


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