What is a superbug?
The term superbug is a nonspecific word that is used to describe any organism that is resistant to at least one or more commonly used antibiotics. The most common bacteria described as superbugs are the following:
- MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus strains resistant to multiple antibiotics)
- VRE (Enterococcus species resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin)
- PRSP (Streptococcus pneumoniae strains resistant to penicillin)
- ESBL (Escherichia coli and similar bacteria that are resistant to a certain category of antibiotics, such as cephalosporins)
- CRE (Escherichia coli and similar bacteria that are resistant to the carbapenem antibiotics, which are often used as a last resort for ESBL and other resistant bacteria)
Emerging superbugs may include multiple drug-resistant Clostridium difficile, VRSA (vancomycin-resistant S. aureus), and NDM Escherichia coli (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase resistant E. coli), and some strains of gonorrhea. In 2013, the CDC set up a superbug site listing 18 different genera and species as "threats" due to antimicrobial resistance. They are categorized as urgent, serious, and concerning according to their potential to cause serious health problems; MRSA is ranked as serious. The U.S. National Institutes of Health funds research to develop new diagnosis tools, treatments, and vaccines against superbugs, including MRSA.
Medically Reviewed on 8/23/2018
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