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Researchers discover drug-resistant superbug among Houstonians

Published 4:35 pm, Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Houston Methodist researchers discovered an unsettling strain of bacteria among Houstonians they examined: A rare and drug-resistant superbug called Klebsiella pneumoniae. 

In a four-year study, researchers found the bacteria in more than one-third of patients staying at various Houston Methodist system hospitals. 

In a prepared statement, the study’s senior author Dr. James M. Musser said, “Finding the otherwise uncommon strain in our city was a very surprising discovery. Because Klebsiella pneumoniae is a common and important cause of human infections, we urgently need to identify potential vaccine targets or other new treatments, and develop new and rapid diagnostic techniques.”

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K. pneumoniae typically lives inside the intestines but can cause other illnesses if it migrates, “including pneumonia; bloodstream, wound or surgical site infections; meningitis; and urinary tract infections,” according to a Houston Methodist news release.

In an interview with NBC, Dr. Musser said there is currently no vaccine available against the superbug and that one is “desperately” needed. 

Researchers still do not understand why Klebsiella pneumoniae is so common in Houston. 

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Dr. S. Wesley Long, associate director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Houston Methodist Hospital, told Time magazine, “We are still trying to come to terms with what the implications are. We don’t want to alarm anyone, because the local superbug is no more virulent than the other [strains]. There’s nothing about it that makes it any worse for patients or requires it to be treated differently.”

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