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CDC says ‘phantom menace’ superbug on the rise in U.S.

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Map from CDC shows location of CRE cases in the U.S.

(Dec. 8, 2015) – A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” is on the rise in the United States.

Scientists have dubbed the bacterial strain a “phantom menace” that’s difficult to treat because it has developed resistance to most antibiotics. The report, released last week, concerns a strain of CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) that carries a plasmid capable of breaking down antibiotics. These bacteria can also transfer that plasmid to other bacteria in the body, making them even more dangerous, according to the Washington Post.

Health experts refer to this strain as a “phantom menace” because it isn’t as well-known as other CRE strains and has a high mortality rate. Standard tests don’t look for it.

“This is a tricky drug-resistant bacteria, and it isn’t easily found,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden told the Washington Post. “What we’re seeing is an assault by the microbes on the last bastion of antibiotics.”

Since June 2010, there have been 43 cases of this strain of CRE in 19 U.S. states, including Indiana. In the last three years, the CDC said there have been 11 cases per year. That’s in stark contrast to 2010, when a single U.S. case was reported.