What superbugs are there?

By Guy Tsafnat - July 20, 2015, 4 PM

“Superbug” is a nickname given to infections for which there are no antibiotics because they can resist any antibiotic we have to fight them. Usually, this is because the bacteria are resistant to the antibiotic drug. Bacteria resist antibiotics in a variety of forms such as having walls that don’t allow the drug into them and producing enzymes that break down the drug before it can damage them. To do that, the bacteria need to have specific genes. Sometimes, combinations of genes make the bacteria resistant to more than one antibiotic and even all known ones. MRSA (AKA “golden staph”) is a common example. Usually this infection is acquired in a hospital and especially in intensive care units. It is the oldest and most widely spread superbug of the species staphylococcus aureus.

To make matters worse, other superbugs can spread antibiotic resistance genes between cells (so called “jumping genes”) even from different species so particular resistances are not confined to particular species. That’s also why infections may become more resistant over time. Other types of superbugs such as ESBL, KPC and NDM are not species of bacteria at all. These superbugs may be E. coli, Klebsiella and many other species (a group collectively known as Gram Negatives). This group is particularly strong at spreading resistance through “jumping genes”. An infection may become an ESBL when an enzyme that breaks down extended spectrum beta lactamase antibiotics.   

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