Antibiotic-resistant superbug abundant in Houston

Antibiotic-resistant superbug abundant in Houston
Posted at 8:44 AM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 06:15:41-04

HOUSTON (RNN) - A major American city abounds in one particular superbug, a study found.

Researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital discovered that more than one-third of the Houston patients they studied were infected with a strain of the antibiotic-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae.

The pathogen is one of the most common causes of patient infection. A woman in Nevada died from an untreatable Klebsiella pneumoniae infection this year.

Scientists don't know why so many cases were found in the nation's fourth-largest city, but they are studying it. The greater Houston area has a population of about 6 million.

"Finding the otherwise uncommon strain in our city was a very surprising discovery," said James M. Musser, senior author and chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute and Houston Methodist Hospital. "Because Klebsiella pneumoniae is a common and important cause of human infections, we urgently need to identify potential vaccine targets or other new treatments, and develop new and rapid diagnostic techniques."

Researchers used genome sequencing to study more than 1,700 strains that caused infections in patients over a four-year period.

"Unexpectedly, the otherwise uncommon clone type 307 was the most abundant strain of K. pneumoniae circulating," the researchers said. 

This particular strain periodically appears in parts of Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.

“Fortunately, the strain 307 identified in our study remains susceptible to certain antibiotics that can be used to successfully treat infected patients,” said S. Wesley Long, the first author of the study and the director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Klebsiella species are examples of a normal part of the human gut bacteria, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bug causes problems when it travels to other parts of the body, including urinary tract infections, infected wounds, pneumonia and meningitis.

The study was published in the May 16 issue of "mBio."

The bacteria is spread by person-to-person contact, but people can help prevent the germ's spread by washing their hands.

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