CREs (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), the deadly bacteria that’s resistant to most antibiotics in the United States, is able to share its survival techniques to other families of bacteria that make up this grouping, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Bill Hanage is an infectious diseases epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and senior author of the PNAS study. He tells STAT that “they have the capacity to transfer resistance genes from one family to the next—for instance from E. coli bacteria to Klebsiella pneumoniae. Think of it as gangs in a neighborhood teaching each other all their worst tricks.”
He adds ominously: “You know the phrase ‘Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?’ The horse has not only bolted, the horse has had a lot of ponies, and they’re eating all our carrots.”
The CDC estimates that there have been 9,300 infections this year and 600 deaths due to CREs. They are often resistant to the last-ditch antibiotics, carbapenems. Researchers have not been able to pinpoint why exactly that’s the case, but Hanage warns that, “There are many different ways in which they can be resistant.”
Hanage and his research team examined CREs recovered from patients in three Boston hospitals and a hospital in Irvine, Calif., and discovered “a riot of diversity.”