Drug-resistant bacteria found in more than 35 states

Drug-resistant bacteria have been found in more than 35 states and in an increasing number of countries.

The “superbugs” typically strike those who are already critically ill and are considered fatal in between 30 and 60 percent of cases. The bacteria contain a gene that allows the production of an enzyme that renders antibiotics nearly useless. This enzyme is known as Klebisiella pneumonia carbapenamase, or KPC, according to USA Today.

Neil Fishman is the director of infection control and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and president of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists. Fishman told USA Today that he is particularly concerned that KPC disables a group of medications called carbapenem antibiotics, which are usually used in cases when infections do not respond to any other treatments.

"We've lost our drug of last resort," Fishman told USA Today.

Carbapenam-resistant bacteria are not known to be spreading throughout communities - they have mostly been seen in hospital patients. They are, however, far more common than bacteria carrying a gene called metallo-beta-lactamase-1, or NDM-1, according to Fishman.

NDM-1 containing bacteria have rarely been seen in the U.S. and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have generally been found in those that received medical care in India.

KPC’s have been reported most often in New York and New Jersey. A decade ago, only one percent of Klensiella pneumonia bacteria that were reported to the CDC were resistant to carbapenem antibiotics. That number has since risen to eight percent.

"We see a ton of the KPC organisms," Yoko Furuya, medical director of infection control in New York Presbyterian Hospital, told USA Today. "It started in 2002 and 2003. They just somehow established themselves in nursing homes and hospitals. We always have some patients, five to 10 at a time, in the hospital with this problem."