More strains of drug-resistant bacteria have been cropping up, rivaling the superbug MRSA that has been making recent headlines. Anicetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae belong to category of bacteria called “gram-negative.” These bacteria are difficult to fight because they are wrapped in a double membrane and harbor enzymes that chew up many antibiotics.
While some drugs are still available to treat MRSA, the drugs used to treat gram-negative bacteria are becoming ineffective. Antibiotics known as carbapenems have been the drug of last resort for gram-negatives, but the bugs have developed a way to make an enzyme that dissolves the drugs.
As the best drugs fail, doctors are turning to more dangerous, toxic drugs to treat the infections such as colistin, which side effects include kidney damage and deafness.
Infections from these three bugs are not reportable by law, but voluntary reports in 2002 identified 104,000 gram-negative infections that were resistant to at least some antibiotics. That same year, there were 102,000 MRSA infections reported.
Gram-negative bacteria are harmless to healthy people but infect already-damaged tissue. They enter the body by way of ventilator tubes, catheters, open wounds and burns, causing pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and bone, join and bloodstream infections.
Drug-resistant Pseudomonas caused the death of Brazilian beauty queen Mariana Bridi, who died of sepsis after doctors tried to contain the rampaging infection by amputating her feet and hands and removing her kidneys.
These three gram-negative strains, along with Escherichia coli are among the six leading causes of infections in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare settings. Resistant strains are on the rise throughout the United States.