Not your mama’s MRSA: Why the new ‘superbug’ should freak you out a little

Just like in those 1950’s horror classics, The superbug has returned with a vengeance! 

But in the real world, the superbug is a real bacteria called C.R.E. (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) and is among the world-wide “superbugs” that are resistant to almost all antibiotics, have high mortality rates, and can spread their resistance to other bacteria.

This threat is not limited to the USA. The UK is on high alert as well. Two months ago Dame Davies warned British legislators that antibiotic resistance should be added to the UK’s national risk register. The register was set up in 2008 to advise the public and businesses on national emergencies that the UK could face in the next five years.

As bacterial infections evolve into ‘superbugs’ like MRSA, which are resistant to existing drugs, more must be done discover new antibiotics. Only a few antibiotics have been discovered in the last few decades.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don’t act now any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics, And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection,” Davies told UK reporters as she published her report on infectious disease.

These superbugs cause infections of the bloodstream, urinary tract, and bowel. Particularly vulnerable are those who are already hospitalized, as well as the elderly. No surprisingly, the superbugs are the biggest threat to patient safety in the hospital and nothing seems to be slowing their spread.

Pacific Palisades internist, Dr. Damon Raskin, a specialist in geriatric medicine speaks to the ways we contract these hard-to-kill bugs, along with causes and preparedness we need to take.

In treating his older patients, Dr. Raskin, thinks about this danger daily.  “I see many elderly patients succumb to infections, and we need to do more to protect the frail and elderly, especially in light of these newer resistant bugs. One thing we can all do is wash our hands more frequently. Although an easy measure, it is often forgotten and can make a big difference in whether an infection is passed on or not. Also, if you have a family member in a nursing home or assisted living, check to see that they are highly rated by Medicare. Facilities receive regular inspections on items such as cleanliness and hygiene and these can be important markers for the quality of the facility. If at all possible, try to get a private room for your loved one to reduce chances of sharing germs.”

Dr. Raskin adds, “Also patients need to be proactive about not always requesting antibiotics from doctors for their minor colds and sore throats. Fewer antibiotics around will help resistance trends. Finally, if you are going to have an elective procedure in the hospital, try to schedule it for the summer after flu season. This might help reduce hospital infections.”

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.