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William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and health policy disease at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said the CDC’s efforts to contain and slow the spread of nightmare bacteria seem to be working. The CDC lab network is “working …

“Nightmare bacteria” with unusual resistance to antibiotics of last resort were found more than 200 times in the United States last year in a first-of-a-kind hunt. (April 3) AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected more than 220 cases last year of a rare breed of “nightmare bacteria” that are virtually untreatable and capable of spreading genes that make them impervious to most antibiotics, according to a report released Tuesday.

While those bacteria are terrifying on their own, the “unusual” genes discussed in this report are truly the “worst of the worst,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

About 2 million Americans are sickened by antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and 23,000 die, according to the CDC.

Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, compared the problem to a “slow-moving tsunami.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than 220 cases last year of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, whose spread has “outpaced” efforts to contain them.

A 2016 report commissioned by the British government and Wellcome Trust called for investing $40 billion over the next decade to fight the problem. About 700,000 people around the world die due to antibiotic resistance each year. Without immediate action, annual deaths could rise to 10 million by 2050, according to the report.

Bacteria naturally evolve to resist drugs used against them. The more the drugs are used, the faster this happens, Osterholm said. While developing new antibiotics can help, Osterholm compared that approach to “trying to dig yourself out of a hole.”

It’s far more important that countries around the world use antibiotics more judiciously, Osterholm said. Doctors today often prescribe antibiotics when they’re not needed. And in developing nations, patients often buy antibiotics on the street, Osterholm said, noting that antibiotics are also widely used in agriculture.

Vaccines can also help fight antibiotic resistance, he said, by preventing people from ever becoming sick in the first place.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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USA TODAY

Liz Szabo, Kaiser Health NewsPublished 1:20 p.m. ET April 3, 2018 | Updated 3:35 p.m. ET April 3, 2018

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