By NIAID/NIH via Wikimedia Commons

By NIAID/NIH via Wikimedia Commons

Recent Superbug Outbreak Highlights Danger of Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, various news outlets reported on a superbug outbreak at UCLA hospital linked to two patient deaths and nearly 180 possibly infected. The patients were exposed to Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriacea, or CRE, spread from contaminated scopes.

An estimated 650,000 patients per year in the U.S. develop an infection while in the hospital, and almost 75,000 die as a result, suggests research from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a radio interview, our Safe Patient Project Director, Lisa McGiffert, discussed the need for hospitals to disclose superbug outbreaks to patients and the public. Patient safety advocate and hospital infection survivor Alicia Cole called for real-time reporting of hospital infections. Barb Thom from Wisconsin, who shared her hospital infection story with Consumers Union several years ago, was featured in this NBC Nightly News segment.

Beware of These Superbugs


The CDC considers CRE to be one of the deadliest that develop in hospitals because it’s resistant to most known antibiotics. The bacteria can cause infections of the bladder or lungs, leading to coughing or chills. CRE infections have been reported in every state except Idaho, Alaska, and Maine. The infection was responsible for the deaths of 610 people in 2013.


MRSA is also resistant to several antibiotics. The infection was linked to 11,000 deaths in 2011, though rates have declined since then. The infections often develop during or after surgery, or can be traced to urinary catheters or central-line catheters, which are used to provide intravenous nutrition, fluid, and medication to seriously ill hospital patients.


C. difficile spreads when someone with con­taminated hands touches a medical device, or someone touches a contaminated surface, then their mouth, eyes, or nose. It has become common in part because of the overuse of antibiotics, which kill good bacteria in the gut, allowing C. diff to take hold.

Antibiotic Misuse Breeds Hospital Superbugs



Five Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Take Antibiotics (via Consumer Reports Health):

1) Do I really need antibiotics?
2) What are the risks?
3) Are there simpler, safer options?
4) How much do they cost?
5) How do I safely take antibiotics?

A Growing Problem That Needs Public Awareness

Antibiotic resistance is not a new problem but it’s a growing one that needs to be addressed quickly. At this point, the superbugs are moving faster than our health care system’s ability to tackle the problem, putting patients at risk.

Are you concerned about “the end of antibiotics”? What steps are you taking to use antibiotics wisely?