TWO drug-resistant superbugs are posing an “urgent threat” to Americans, experts have warned.
The new germs have built up resilience against the medication designed to kill them – making them extremely dangerous and difficult to treat.
Health officials have discovered these bugs – Candida auris and Acinetobacter – infect and kill more people than previous estimates suggested.
A previous study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013 estimated that two million Americans were infected by superbugs each year, leading to at least 23,000 deaths.
However, yesterday, the CDC reexamined the numbers from “millions and millions” of electronic records from 700 hospitals, along with other new data sources.
They found that closer to 2.6 million drug-resistant infections likely occurred at the time of the last report, resulting in nearly 44,000 deaths — nearly double the previous estimate.
Michael Craig, a senior adviser for the CDC Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit, said: “We knew and said [in 2013] that our estimate was conservative … and we were right.”
He added that yesterday’s report provides a clearer picture of the danger that drug-resistant bugs pose to the nation’s health and global security.
Today, drug-resistant bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths across the country annually.
This represents a roughly 18 per cent decrease in deaths from these infections overall since 2013 and a 30 per cent decrease in deaths that occur in hospitals.
Kills every 15 minutes
However, according to a CDC statement, someone in the US catches a drug-resistant infection every 11 seconds, and someone dies as a result of these infections about every 15 minutes.
Dr Robert Redfield, CDC director, added: “Despite significant progress, this threat remains our enemy.”
A bug called Candida auris is among the most dangerous of these microbes, the report noted.
Craig revealed: “It is a pathogen that we didn’t even know about when we wrote our last report in 2013, and since then, it’s circumvented the globe.”
The fungus has spread through five continents, simultaneously, and kills one in five people who become infected with it, Redfield said.
Some infections appear to be resistant to all three classes of medications designed to treat it.
The bacterium Acinetobacter, also new to the “urgent threat” list, caused an estimated 8,500 infections in hospitalised patients and 700 estimated deaths in the US in 2017, according to the CDC.
Infections with this bug often arise in health care settings and appear resistant to multiple antibiotics, the report revealed.
What are Candida auris and Acinetobacter?
Candida auris was first identified in 2009.
It causes serious multidrug-resistant infections in hospitalised patients and has high mortality rates.
It causes bloodstream, wound and ear infections and has also been isolated from respiratory and urine specimens.
Most C. auris infections are treatable with antifungals from the echinocandin group of drugs.
Acinetobacter is a bacteria that are readily found throughout the environment including drinking and surface waters, soil, sewage and various types of foods.
Acinetobacter infections acquired in the community are very rare and most strains found outside hospitals are sensitive to antibiotics.
A few species, particularly Acinetobacter baumannii, can cause serious infections in hospital patients who are already very unwell.
These ‘hospital-adapted’ strains of Acinetobacter baumannii are sometimes resistant to many antibiotics and the infections that they cause can therefore be difficult to treat.
The most common Acinetobacter infections include pneumonia, blood stream infections, wound infections and urinary tract infections.
Drug-resistant gonorrhea infections are also on the rise, with most bacteria showing resistance to all but one class of antibiotics.
In addition, antibiotic-resistant infections with group A strep bacteria quadrupled since the 2013 report, and the death count will rise if serious measures aren’t taken now, officials said.
“The good news is, we know how we can protect ourselves from this threat,” Redfield said.
He encouraged people to make sure they’re up to date on vaccinations, which reduces the rates of infection in general.
And Craig emphasised that everyone can help prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance by maintaining good hygiene and washing their hands regularly, making sure to cook meat adequately and practising safe sex.
On top of this, people can also help by taking antibiotics only as prescribed.
Redfield concluded: “Bacteria and fungi will continue to develop resistance to drugs designed to kill them.
“The report further underlines that this threat isn’t going away.”