Dr. Tim Johnson of the University of Minnesota has identified a new strain of antibiotic resistant bacteria. This bacteria, known as Enterobacter cloacae, was reported in a hospital outbreak in Fargo, North Dakota. Whole genome sequencing revealed that 32 of the strains collected from patients in the Upper Midwest were clonal.
The bacteria is spreading throughout this region of the country. Dr. Johnson said, “this provides evidence for the origin of this multidrug resistant clone in the Fargo-Moorhead area, followed by its spread over time through nursing homes and hospitals in western Minnesota, and more recently in the Twin Cities metro area.”
He added, “this is a public health crisis. This is probably the biggest challenge we’re going to face from a public health standpoint in our futures.” The bacteria is spreading across the state in healthcare facilities.
People carry this type of bacteria in your system, but those with weakened immune systems can get sick from this pathogen. Person-to-person spread of this particular pathogen is likely. It causes serious infections that can lead to prolonged hospitalization. Dr. Johnson added that no one knows how prevalent this bacteria is in the general population.
The best way to prevent the spread of these pathogens is simple: good hygiene. Hand washing with soap and water is crucial. If you are in a hospital or healthcare facility, especially if you are working with food, frequent and correct hand washing will help prevent the spread of this bacteria.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria have become a serious issue in the last decade. These pathogens become resistant to antimicrobials in several ways. First, if patients do not take all of the antibiotics they are prescribed for a bacterial infection, the bacteria can evolve and develop defenses against the drug. Second, if doctors prescribe antibiotics to patients who do not need them, bacteria evolve resistance. And third, factory farms give antibiotics in sub-therapeutic doses to food animals, which allows the bacteria in farms to develop resistance.
Johnson said, “if you are a health person carrying this bacterium, you wouldn’t know you had been colonized with it. It only really cases disease in the immunocompromised, like the elderly. E. cloacae causes wound infections, urinary tract infections, and sepsis (blood infections), in compromised patients.
The bacteria is now resistant to one of the “last line” antibiotics called carbapenems. The pathogen is also resistant to disinfectants and heavy metals. Dr. Johnson and his team would like to see healthcare facilities add surveillance programs to their fight against bacteria.