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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

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Drug-Resistant 'Superbugs' Put CDC on Alert

A bacterial infection with a 50% fatality rate has threatened hospitals across the country.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of infections caused by deadly 'superbugs' in US hospitals, officials reported Tuesday.

The CDC reported that more than two hundred US hospitals, 4 percent of the country's hospitals, have seen at least one case of infection by a drug-resistant bacterium dubbed CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae).

The so-called 'superbugs' earned the title through a newly-developed resistance to antiobiotics. Less than one decade ago, extreme resistance was not the norm, but genetic adaptations and an overuse of antibiotics have produced exceptionally high rates of drug resistance in the bacteria. In 2001, only 1.4 percent of Enterobacteriaceae were drug resistant. In 2011, that ratio had increased to 4 percent.

The bug enters the gut, producing health complications such as pneumonia as well as urinary tract and bloodstream infections. Half of infected patients die.

The CDC warned that those staying in hospitals on a long-term basis are most at risk for infection, and said that there is so far no evidence that the infections have spread from hospitals into the outside community.

Of potentially greatest concern is CRE's ability to transfer its drug resistant genes to other bacteria, potentially creating entirely different strains of drug-proof bugs.

The CDC has asked hospitals to be vigilant of the bug and reminded healthcare providers to adhere to higher sanitation standards to prevent any spread of infection.

The first superbugs were seen in India, producer of one third of the world's antibiotics.

Of the U.S. cases reported this season, eight were in a Delaware hospital.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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