“Phantom Menace” Superbug Attacks

As anticipation for the newest installment of Star Wars grows approaching its grand debut next week, another “menace” more dangerous than any Sith is increasing under the radar.

According to a recent report by the CDC, a dangerous superbug in the family of bacteria known as CRE, is on the rise in America. These bacteria kill up to 50% of infected patients, making it one of the country’s most urgent health threats. Unlike other common types of CRE, this one carries a mobile piece of DNA, or plasmid, with an enzyme that breaks down antibiotics and can transfer that antibiotic resistance to normal bacteria already present in our body, infecting the bacteria with resistance without having to develop through mutation.

This “phantom menace” is less antibiotic-resistant than other types of CRE, but it has escaped most detection by health officials. Two weeks ago, another superbug gene was discovered in China which is resistant to the antibiotic of last resort. This Chinese superbug has now been found in Denmark, an example of how quickly resistance can spread around the world, being carried by people, animals, and food. It is similar to the “phantom menace” type of CRE in that the gene is contained in a plasmid.

The CDC has confirmed at least 43 patients in 19 states with this “menace” in the last five years, with numbers increasing each year. Most labs would not identify this type of bacteria because it is not a common superbug. This past January the CDC changed the bug’s definition to help increase detection.
Sun, Lena. “Superbug known as ‘phantom menace’ on the rise in U.S.” To Your Health. The Washington Post, 4 Dec 2015. Web. 8 Dec 2015.

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