A citywide study recently took place examining the prevalence of “superbugs,” which are antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Disturbingly, some of the more infectious strains have been found in Washington, D.C. hospitals hiding within certain patients known as “silent carriers.”
The study included the Children’s National Medical Center, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington University Hospital and a handful of other well-known medical facilities. It was created to address the global concerns of antibiotic resistance. According to the study by the D.C. Hospital Association, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) was found in 52 out of 1,000 patients tested over the course of 15 weeks. This means the strain has a 5.1 prevalence rate among D.C. patients.
For the better part of a century, doctors have treated their patients’ bacterial infections with antibiotics. However, these bacterial infections may develop a resistance to the antibiotics over time, rendering the antibiotic ineffective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains every year in the U.S., 23,000 of which die.
Typically, superbugs develop when doctors misuse and overprescribe antibiotic drugs, which are only effective in combatting illnesses that arise as a result of bacterial infections. This means that they are completely ineffective at treating viral infections. Still, doctors have prescribed antibiotics to treat viruses for decades. While the U.S. has developed restrictions to combat the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, other countries do not have these restrictions. Superbugs have also been known to spread within hospitals when medical equipment is not properly sanitized.
The problem with CRE is that the infection is easily transmissible, has a very high mortality rate and is alarmingly resistant to the strongest antibiotics. While there has not been a CRE infection reported in D.C., silent carrier patients are still a growing concern. Hopefully, the disturbing study results will encourage hospital officials to take this superbug threat seriously. Medical staff should be reminded to take sanitation seriously and doctors should be discouraged from prescribing antibiotics needlessly.