A Houston superbug version of a common cause of hospital infections has been found in more than a third of patients studied by alarmed medical researchers who say the strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae is resistant to many antibiotics currently in use.
"Because Klebsiella pneumoniae is a common and important cause of human infections, we urgently need to identify potential vaccine targets or other new treatments, and develop new and rapid diagnostic techniques," said Dr. James Musser, an author of the study by a Houston Methodist Research Institute-led team.
Their study published in the science journal mBio detailed how they tracked the bacterial pathogen, a common problem in U.S. hospitals, reported KTRK-TV.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Klebsiella can cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, and meningitis.
Patients whose care requires devices like ventilators (breathing machines) or intravenous (vein) catheters, and patients who are taking long courses of certain antibiotics are most at risk for Klebsiella infections.
The researchers said strains of the pathogen have also been identified in parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, but have not been identified so abundantly in such a small area like Houston.
"Finding the otherwise uncommon strain in our city was a very surprising discovery," said Musser, who is chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
Dr. S. Wesley Long, another author and associate director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Houston Methodist Hospital, said researchers used computational and molecular strategies to identify the drug-resistant strains.
"The faster we can successfully identify which antibiotics this strain is sensitive to, the faster a treating physician can target the appropriate therapy to these ill patients," said Long. "Our discoveries also give us the tools to begin to understand how the germ is spreading throughout the Houston area."
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