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Nightmare Bacteria

March 5, 2013


Just returned from a great time discussing books in Katonah, when what emerges–the latest CDC warning about superbugs, aka “nightmare bacteria.” See this video about bacteria that are resistant to literally every known antibiotic. What do do about them? Robots spray the hospital room with 35% hydrogen peroxide. (Humans cannot withstand that concentration in the air.) Even then, it only kills 90% of the drug-resistant pathogens.

Some of the superbugs are “old friends” like MRSA (methicillin-resistant staph aureus) whereas others are surprising new additions like Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Acinetobacter. Many are Enterobacteriaceae, a family of intestinal bacteria including E. coli, that normally live within us; some of these we used to routinely hand out to undergrads as unknowns to identify. But after decades of indiscriminate antibiotic exposure, these bacteria have become resistant to various antibiotics.

The latest worry is the carbapenems,  last-resort antibiotics related to penicillin, usually reserved for cases where nothing else works. But if one bacterium gets resistant, it can pass its genes around to other species in the gut. The CDC tracked one type of carbapenem-resistant bacteria from a single health-care facility to others in at least 42 states.

And then of course there’s XDR (extreme drug-resistan) TB in India and South Africa.  Not a good time for us to be cutting drug research by the (oink, oink) corporate-jet-saving sequester.

  1. Baldscientist permalink
    March 5, 2013 10:52 pm

    I am sorry, this is waaaaay off topic, but I just saw you on TV in the Science Channel; congrats!!!!!! (:-)

    • March 6, 2013 9:14 am

      Thanks; hope it wasn’t too embarrassing. You never know which slices of your words they’ll take. 🙂

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