Antibiotic-resistant superbugs: Deadlier than previously thought

A new study presents some troubling findings when it comes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in hospitals across the country. The antibiotic-resistant bacteria, once thought to be less "fit" than other strains, in fact survive better and cause more deadly infections, according to the findings

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston published their findings in the July 22 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine. The bottom line: antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be tougher adversaries than previously thought. Not only are they harder to treat, but the antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains are more adept at survival. 

In the study, the Boston researchers examined the effect of genes on antibiotic resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria that cause lung infections. They found mice infected with antibiotic-resistant strains were more likely to die if not treated than mice infected with strains that were not drug-resistant. The researchers confirmed their findings in two other types of bacteria.

Their findings, along with other research, "emphasize the necessity to effectively control the emergence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens as well as the development of alternative approaches to prevent and treat infections," the study authors wrote.

The findings point to the need for new methods to fight these superbugs, considered the health crisis of this generation. Merely controlling antibiotic use won't win the war, instead the solution will be multi-pronged.

Brigham and Women Hospital researchers are working on development of a vaccine and antibodies to boost the human immune system and counter the superbugs, according to an article in the Boston Business Journal. The new study comes in the face of a report that shortages of key antibiotics could make drug-resistant bacteria an even bigger threat to patients.

To learn more:
- read the study
- read the Boston Business Journal article