CDC: Dangerous 'phantom menace' superbug on the rise in the U.S.

CDC: Dangerous 'phantom menace' superbug on the rise in the U.S.

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ATLANTA — A new, antibiotic-resistant superbug is becoming more prevalent in the U.S., according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control.

The bacteria strain — dubbed "phantom menace" by scientists — is more resistant to antibiotics than other superbugs (also known as CREs) according to the new report. Over the past five years, scientists have seen more cases in the U.S. than ever before.

Since 2010, the CDC has confirmed 43 cases of this particular superbug across 19 states — with the majority of cases landing in California and Illinois. But perhaps most alarming is the fact that just one case was identified in 2010, whereas 2013, 2014 and 2015 saw 11 diagnoses each.

"This is a tricky drug-resistant bacteria, and it isn't easily found," CDC Director Thomas Frieden told the Washington Post. "What we're seeing is an assault by the microbes on the last bastion of antibiotics."

What sets "phantom menace" apart from other CRE is that the bug's ability to break down antibiotics with a particular enzyme that can spread to healthy bacteria in the body — effectively compromising the body's ability to utilize those drugs to fight disease, the Post reports.

Currently, U.S. labs aren't equipped to identify this particular strain because it's not included in the standard CRE testing, but the CDC is taking steps to change that, according to the Post.

CRE bacteria is extremely difficult to treat and often highly fatal, killing up to half of patients who become infected, according to the CDC. The report revealed that the median age of patients who contracted the bug was 70.

So far, no cases of "phantom menace" have been identified in Utah.

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Jessica Ivins

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