News reports are describing a “nightmare superbug” killing people in California. But scientists who study infectious diseases say the risk from this outbreak doesn’t live up to the alarming headlines.
“It’s not something that is likely to spread around the community or is a cause for alarm,” says David Perlin, an infectious disease scientist and executive director of the Public Health Research Institute at Rutgers.
Bacteria that are extremely resistant to drugs have killed two patients and infected at least five others who had endoscopic procedures at a hospital affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles. The bacteria involved are known as Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, a family of bacteria that is highly resistant to even the toughest antibiotics. The infections in Southern California have been linked to two particular endoscopes, specialized devices that allow doctors to look inside the body without making an incision. The outbreak is unlikely to spread further because UCLA appears to have identified and eliminated the source of infection, Perlin says.
The news coverage and public’s concern related to CRE are “going to flare up and then it’s going to go away,” says David Ropeik, a consultant in risk perception and communication. That’s because this particular outbreak of this particular type of bacteria doesn’t pose an immediate risk to most people, he says.
But “the world will still be at serious peril from a risk we don’t take seriously, which is antibiotic resistance,” he says. “Germs are figuring out how to resist our antibiotics faster than we can make new ones.”
Read full, original article: Why California’s Superbug Outbreak Isn’t As Scary As It Seems