Superbugs are multidrug resistant bacteria which are able to survive exposure to even the most powerful antibiotics. Here, we list our top 10 deadly superbugs which are causing fear across the world.
10) C. difficile
C. difficile is a spore-forming bacterial species associated with severe, sometimes fatal, diarrhoea. It is unclear how many healthy, asymptomatic adults carry C. diff in their colons, but in times of ill health, and especially after broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment, it can overgrow and cause disease.
C. difficile is one of the most common infections acquired by patients while they are in hospital. Since many strains of C. difficile are now resistant to antibiotics, early intervention and aggressive treatment with specific anticlostridial antibiotics are essential for the patient to recover from the infection.
9) Resistant salmonella
In 2011, a report in the Journal of Infectious Disease identified a strain of Salmonella resistant to the most powerful antibiotics in the UK, France and Denmark. The strain, known as S. Kentucky, has developed resistance to the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, often used for treating severe Salmonella cases.
Most of the millions of Salmonella infections a year are not serious, causing only mild stomach upsets. Occasionally, however, they can be life-threatening and may need treatment with antibiotics. S. Kentucky had infected nearly 500 patients around the world between 2005 and 2008.
In 2011, a new superbug that is resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics was discovered in UK hospitals. Bacteria that make up an enzyme called NDM-1 had travelled back with patients who went abroad to Asia for cosmetic surgery.
NDM-1 can exist inside different bacteria and make them resistant to a powerful group of antibiotics, carbapenems. So far two types of bacteria have been host to NDM-1 – the gut bug E.coli and another that can invade the lungs called Klebsiella pneumonia.
One way of avoiding superbugs prevalent in the NHS is with private medical cover. With private medical cover you will stay in a private room with an ensuite bathroom, reducing your chances of catching a bug like NDM-1.
KPC-possessing K. pneumoniae causes pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and sepsis; the mortality rate from these infections is extremely high. KPC has developed resistance to most classes of antibiotics, and is already starting to become resistant to the remaining successful few.
In 2011, KPC accounted for 259 of the new cases of superbugs in the UK. There was just one reported case in 2007. Compare health insurance online now to ensure you get treated in a private room.
In 2011, the massive outbreak of antibiotic-resistant E.coli O104 in Europe infected more than 3,000 people and killed around 50. The illness was characterized by bloody diarrhoea, with a high frequency of serious complications, including haemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS).
Because O104 strains are almost never resistant to antibiotics, the outbreak led people to speculate whether the superbug was actually bio-engineered.
Potentially deadly strains of MRSA that can be passed between people outside of hospitals are increasing in the UK. USA300 is one of these strains, which is already causing huge problems in America.
USA300 can lead to a flesh-eating form of pneumonia that erodes lung tissue. It also puts the sufferer at risk of fatal blood poisoning. The infection passes easily through skin to skin contact and can survive on surfaces, giving it the potential to be picked up on crowded buses and tubes. USA300 is resistant to treatment by several front-line antibiotics.
4) Super Gonorrhoea
Scientists recently found a ‘superbug’ strain of gonorrhoea in Japan that is resistant to all recommended antibiotics, called H041. Gonorrhoea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract.
Gonorrhoea has progressively developed resistance to the antibiotic drugs prescribed to treat it. The emergence of cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhoea would mean doctors have no other option than to try untested medicines on the disease. Experts say that H041 could transform a once easily treatable infection into a global health threat.
3) Drug-resistant tuberculosis
TB is one of the world’s biggest killers, second only to HIV among infectious diseases, and is usually treatable with a course of antibiotics. Cases of antibiotic-resistant TB were reported for the first time in 2012 by Indian doctors in Mumbai.
Whilst doctors in a Mumbai hospital claimed the disease was a totally resistant strain, A WHO official in India said that the there is no recognised case of totally drug resistant TB anywhere in the world. However, the report causes concern over India’s ability to control the disease in the future.
2) Drug-resistant malaria
Each year about 2,000 people return to the UK with malaria, and approximately 12 people a year die as a consequence of the disease.
Now, the malaria parasite is developing resistance one of the most important anti-malarial drugs, artemisinin. At the moment, no other class of drugs is available to replace artemisinin, and none are near the end of the development pipeline. Scientists worry that if resistant parasites make their way to Africa, where the vast majority of malaria cases occur, mortality will soar.
1) Armageddon bird flu
A super-strain of the bird flu virus, dubbed the ‘Armageddon virus’ has been developed in a laboratory by Dutch scientists. The virus is an H5N1 bird flu strain which was genetically altered to become much more contagious.
Classed as ‘one of the most dangerous viruses you can make’, the virus has the potential to kill up to half the world’s population. Academics and bioterrorism experts are now arguing over whether to publish the recipe.
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