On Friday, I was reading an article from USA Today during supper that caught my attention. The article was about how hospitals in United States are now combating certain types of bacteria containing an enzyme called Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase (KPC).
What is Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase?
To put it simple, this is an enzyme that makes bacteria more like virus in the sense that most antibiotics do not work against them. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine website, “the production of these enzymes results in resistance to all penicillins, cephalosporins (i.e., cafepime, ceftriaxone), carbapenems (i.e., meropenem, ertapenem), and aztreonam.”1 Just imagine how hazardous bacteria can be if they somehow were able to include this enzyme in their genome.
But, the seriousness of this problem does not stop there. In the USA Today article that I mentioned earlier, Neil Fishman, director of infection control and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and president of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists, said, “We’ve lost our drug of last resort [in an effort to combat KPC].”2 Even the title of that article is frightening – thirty-five states have reported on finding this enzyme.
Why So Frightening?
The major concern to this enzyme and the bacteria, Klebsiella pneumoniae, which harbors it, is that people can acquire them in the hospital. If you think about it, the idea is really frightening. An average patient who was hospitalized after a simple surgery may end up acquiring this antibiotic-resistance bacterium. Clearly, this is not something that we want to hear when we plan to make visits to the hospitals.
According to University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, not only is there no vaccine available for KPC, but also, the prevention of it – besides washing hands – is difficult as well.3 So, if you are residing in one of thirty-five states that reported cases of KPC, you should make a habit of washing hands often in the hospital settings.
In addition, Marc Siegel, Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, wrote on FOXNews that KPC “is deadly 40 percent of the time.”4 In the same article, he also pointed out how unlikely that pharmaceutical companies will be producing drugs to them, at least anytime soon, since it is not likely to generate profits to them.
So, What Now?
My personal advice based on researching this enzyme is that there is really no way to adequately prepare for this at the moment. The only way is to wash hands frequently and try to stay healthy as much as possible to reduce hospital visits. Of course, this does not mean that one should not go to hospital just because of fear for this enzyme. Going to hospital is important, but also taking necessary actions to stay healthy is as well. The general trend in current medicine is on preventive medicine, so while preventive medicine isn’t as useful in this case, it still tells us that it is a lot easier to do what we can to stay healthy than to fix our problems once we acquire them.
1 KPC Education for Nursing Staff, “Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase (KPC)-Producing Organisms,” 28 Jan. 2008, Can be accessed at http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/bin/e/n/KPC_Nursing_Education-B.pdf
2 Steve Sternberg, “Drug-resistant ‘superbugs’ hit 35 states, spread worldwide,” USA Today 17 Sept. 2010.
3 UCSD School of Medicine, “Community-Acquired Pneumonia: Microbiology (K. pneumoniae),” 26 Apr. 1999, Can be accessed at http://meded.ucsd.edu/isp/1999/CAP/klebs.html
4 Marc Siegel, “5 Things You Should Know About the New Superbug,” 14 Sept. 2010, Can be accessed at http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/09/14/dr-marc-siegel-superbug-mrsa-bacteria-india-drug-resistance-antibiotics/