Editor’s Note: We’re horrified to learn that we’re the first international news outlet to bring massive attention to this story. This superbug was first revealed in The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal. Until now, this story went underreported in the media, with only a handful of regional outlets providing limited coverage.
Scientists in Hangzhou, China have discovered a new strain of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia which spreads incredibly fast, following a 2016 outbreak in a hospital ICU which led to the deaths of five patients ranging in age from 53 to 73.
K. pneumoniae (ST11 CR-HvKP) is a deadly combination of two previously known strains of pneumonia; one which shrugs off all but the toughest antibiotics, and the other which is classified as ‘very severe’ and ‘hypervirulent’ in terms of lethality and how quickly it spreads.
The new report also reveals that samples from other parts of China tested positive for the new superbug, noting that “[f]ailure to control its early spread right now, will make a global epidemic of carbapenem-resistant [CRE], hypervirulent K. pneumoniae hard to avoid,” advising that “Control measures should be implemented to prevent further dissemination of such organisms.”
Epidimiologiests Liang Chen and Barry Kreisworth call the new strain of pneumoniae an “alarming evolutionary event.”
While Allergan’s U.S. approved antibiotic of last resort ‘Avibactam’ can likely handle ST11 CR-HvKP, it is not available in China, which currently has nothing it its pharmaceutical arsenal to battle the infection.
The microbe can fight off all drugs available in China, Chen says. “We don’t have anything in China to stop it,” he says. “There is a drug available in the U.S. that should be effective against it, but we haven’t tested it yet.”
In the outbreak, the five patients who died were all older than 53. They were all on ventilators after undergoing major surgeries. And they died from severe lung failure, multiorgan failure or septic shock, the researchers found.