The Rising Plague Superbugs Gram Negative Bacteria

The Dr Oz Show today is about The Rising Plague Superbugs Gram Negative Bacteria. We all know the easiest place to find bacteria is in a hospital, but things are definitely getting a little too scary especially to those that are just finding out how far things have gone. Being aware of Mrsa and what it can do to a person is frightening enough, but now with the knowledge of Gram Negative Bacteria and how bacteria become drug-resistant sets off the alarms for me. – Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical News Correspondent;

Although not as dangerous or as prevalent as MRSA, Gram-Negative Bacteria are a current threat that may become as big a health problem. A new report from the Infectious Diseases Society of America says these superbugs are creeping onto the radar in hospitals across the country, and our ability to fight them is next to none.

What Are Superbugs – They’re called “gram-negative” bacteria. They are extremely drug-resistant; they have long, complicated names like “acinetobacter baumanii” and “klebsiella pneumoniae.” Two important issues related to these bacteria: They are increasingly cropping up in hospitals, and they are nearly impossible to treat. A gram-negative bacterial infection killed Brazilian model Mariana Bridi da Costa. She had her hands and feet amputated and kidneys removed to try to stem the infection’s spread before she died. Gram-negative bacteria are also responsible for a spate of infections among returning Iraq war vets.

The biggest concern with gram-negative bacteria is, there are virtually no drugs to effectively treat them. One drug, Colistin, is the only option that sometimes works, but it is incredibly toxic — can cause kidney damage. Gram-negative infections are spread almost exclusively in hospitals, whereas MRSA has escaped the hospital confines and can now be found in the community. But keep in mind that MRSA started in hospitals.

Doctors see gram-negative infections among patients who are already very ill. Might be babies in the NICU, very old patients, patients who’ve just had surgery, burn patients in the ICU, for example. Gram-negative bacteria can enter the body by way of catheters, IVs, ventilators or wounds.

Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them
By Brad Spellberg

Antibiotic-resistant microbes infect more than 2 million Americans and kill over 100,000 each year. They spread rapidly, even in such seemingly harmless places as high school locker rooms, where they infect young athletes. And throughout the world, many more people are dying from these infections. Astoundingly, at the same time that antibiotic resistant infections are skyrocketing in incidence creating a critical need for new antibiotics research and development of new antibiotics has ground to a screeching halt!

Diseases Connected to Antibiotic Resistance;

  • Tuberculosis
  • Head Lice
  • Malaria
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Streptococcus pneumonia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Vancomycin/Glycopeptide-Intermediate Staphylococcus aureus (VISA/GISA)
  • Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE)

MRSA has been featured in the news and on television programs a great deal recently. MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This type of bacteria causes “staph” infections that are resistant to treatment with usual antibiotics.

According to the CDC MRSA occurs most frequently among patients who undergo invasive medical procedures or who have weakened immune systems and are being treated in hospitals and healthcare facilities such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. MRSA in healthcare settings commonly causes serious and potentially life threatening infections, such as bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, or pneumonia.

In addition to healthcare associated infections, MRSA can also infect people in the community at large, generally as skin infections that may look like pimples or boils and can be swollen, painful and have draining pus. These skin infections often occur in otherwise healthy people.

For more common germs, including Staph infections like MRSA, doctors have an arsenal of antibiotics. Along with MRSA, many significant infection-causing bacteria in the world are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antimicrobial treatments. There are several drugs, including some approved in the last few years, that can treat MRSA. But for a combination of business reasons and scientific challenges, the pharmaceuticals industry is pursuing very few drugs for Acinetobacter and other organisms of its type, known as Gram-negative bacteria. Meanwhile, the germs are evolving and becoming ever more immune to existing antibiotics.

Can you image someone you love going into the hospital for a hip replacement and end up dying 2 months later from Acinetobacter baumannii, this is what happened to a man named Richard Armbruster. After a series of postsurgical complications, the final blow was a bloodstream infection that sent him into shock and resisted treatment with antibiotics. This germ is one of a category of bacteria that by some estimates are already killing tens of thousands of hospital patients each year. While the organisms do not receive as much attention as the one known as MRSA — for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

New York City hospitals, perhaps because of the large numbers of patients they treat, have become the global breeding ground for another drug-resistant Gram-negative germ, Klebsiella pneumoniae. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 1.7 million hospital-associated infections, from all types of bacteria combined, cause or contribute to 99,000 deaths each year.

Doctors treating resistant strains of Gram-negative bacteria are often forced to rely on two similar antibiotics developed in the 1940s — colistin and polymyxin B. These drugs were largely abandoned decades ago because they can cause kidney and nerve damage, but because they have not been used much, bacteria have not had much chance to evolve resistance to them yet.

In Rising Plague, Dr. Brad Spellberg an infectious diseases specialist and member of a national task force charged with attacking antibiotic resistant infections tells the story of this potentially grave public health crisis. The author shares true and very moving patient stories to emphasize the terrible frustration he and his colleagues have experienced while attempting to treat untreatable infections, not to mention the heart-break and tragedy that many of these patients’ families had to endure.

Dr. Spellberg corrects the nearly universal misperception that physician misuse of antibiotics and “dirty hospitals” are responsible for causing antibiotic-resistant infections. He explains the true causes of antibiotic resistance and of the virtual collapse of antibiotic research and development. Most important, he advocates ways to reverse this dire trend and instead bolster the production of desperately needed new and effective antibiotics.

He also warns against complacency induced by the decades-old assumption that some miracle drug will always be available to ensure the continuation of our “antibiotic era”. If we do nothing, we run the risk of inviting a bleak future when infectious diseases will once again reign supreme. Then many of the medical breakthroughs that we now take for granted from routine surgery and organ transplants to intensive care and battlefield medicine might all be threatened.

This crucial and timely book is lucidly written in terms that everyone can understand. It issues a call to action, explaining how, through a strong and concerted effort, we can all help prevent this nightmare scenario from happening. By following this courageous doctor’s recommendations, we can assure that magic bullets will be there for our families and us in the future.

Antibiotics should not be overused, they say, because that contributes to the evolution of resistance.

To encourage prevention, an Atlanta couple, Armando and Victoria Nahum, started the Safe Care Campaign after their 27-year-old son, Joshua, died from a hospital-acquired infection in October 2006.

Joshua, a skydiving instructor in Colorado, had fractured his skull and thigh bone on a hard landing. During his treatment, he twice acquired MRSA and then was infected by Enterobacter aerogenes, a Gram-negative bacterium.

“The MRSA they got rid of with antibiotics,” Mr. Nahum said. “But this one they just couldn’t do anything about.”

Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them

MRSA is a lethal bacteria that can easily be spread by health-care workers. As Michelle Miller reports, a new study reveals how they’re finding ways to greatly reduce the chances of infecting others.