A dangerous and under-recognized superbug is targeting the young
and healthy in the US, being a much more potent variant of a
common bacterium known as K penumoniae.
"Historically, classical strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae have
caused infections mostly in sick, hospitalized patients whose host
defence systems are compromised," says Thomas Russo, professor of
medicine at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine.
"But in the last 10 to 15 years, a new variant of it has begun
causing community-acquired infection in young, healthy
individuals," he says, the journal Public Library of Science ONE
"This variant causes serious, life-threatening, invasive
infections and is able to spread to other organs from the initial
site of infection," adds Russo, according to a Buffalo statement.
Perhaps most important, says Russo, these hypervirulent strains of
K pneumoniae have the potential to become highly resistant to
antibiotics, similar to E coli and classical K pneumoniae.
"These hypervirulent strains are the next 'superbugs' Â-in-waiting,"
he says. "If they become resistant to antibiotics, they will
become difficult, if not impossible to treat."
Russo and his colleagues are studying the microbiology of the new
variant in an effort to identify the genes that make it
hypervirulent so they can figure out how to stop it in its tracks.