Tracking Down ‘Unusually’ Resistant Germs

Last year, the CDC Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Lab Network found 221 instances of “nightmare bacteria” with unusual antibiotic resistance genes “hiding in plain sight.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) study, 1 in 4 germ samples sent to the AR Lab Network for testing had special genes that allow them to spread their resistance to other germs. Further investigation in facilities with unusual resistance revealed that about 1 in 10 screening tests from patients without symptoms identified a hard-to-treat germ that spreads easily, meaning the germ could have spread undetected in that health care facility, the CDC said.

The CDC containment strategy includes continued infection control assessments until spread is stopped, which takes a coordinated response among facilities, labs, health departments, and CDC through the AR Lab Network. Health departments using the approach have conducted infection control assessments and colonization screenings within 48 hours of finding unusual resistance and have reported no further transmission during follow-up over several weeks. Estimates show that for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae alone, the containment strategy would prevent as many as 1,600 new infections in 3 years in a single state—a 76% reduction.

Health care practitioners can help by using contact precautions, asking patients about recent travel or health care, and communicating about status when patients are transferred.

Next Article: