New superbug fear as strain resists treatment

Drug-resistant strains of the bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii represent a growing public health problem, according to research.

Three strains of the bacterium are found across Europe and infection is typically encountered in hospitals. It can be community-acquired, but mainly in southeast Asia and tropical Australia.

Pneumonia and bacteraemia are the most common clinical syndromes reported with community-acquired infection.

The bacterium is associated with a mortality rate of around 34 per cent for patients with a hospital-acquired bloodstream infection. It can be found in soil, and foods including vegetables, meat and fish.

Carbapenems have long been the treatment of choice, but resistance has risen substantially in some areas. Recent trials have reported multidrug resistance rates of 30 per cent.

'The role of A baumannii as a pathogen causing serious infections in critically ill patients has become increasingly clear,' the authors said. 'Additional research is recommended.'

  • Lancet Infectious Diseases 2008; 8: 751-62.

Beating the superbug

  • Carbapenems and sulbactam resistance rates are rising.
  • Polymyxins have shown antimicrobial activity.
  • Tigecycline may be effective against drug-resistant strains.

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