New superbug strain of pneumonia has scientists worried

Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria interacting with human white blood cell tissues (Photo: Getty Images)

A dangerous strain of pneumonia found in China has experts and doctors extremely concerned. As NPR reports, doctors in Hangzhou, China, detected a form of pneumonia that is resistant to drugs, deadly, and highly contagious. Called Klebsiella pneumoniae, the bacterium was found in a “brand new hospital with very good hygiene,” according to microbiologist Sheng Chen, who led a study of the outbreak and disease.

Five patients died from the pneumonia and the doctors had no drugs to stop it. The patients all died from either lung failure, septic shock, or organ failure.

Sheng and a team of other researchers replicated the disease in a lab and were “shocked at what they saw,” reports NPR. The bacteria are unlike other drug resistant so-called superbugs. “They are a fusion of two dangerous forms” of Klebsiella pneumoniae, one being drug resistant, the other hypervirulent. Doctors and scientists around the world had feared the emergence of a combined form of this pneumonia — calling it a “triple threat” — and now it has.

There is a drug available in the U.S. — and not approved for use in China as of yet — that is believed to be possibly effective against the pneumonia. In the meantime, the best case scenario for stopping what could be an global epidemic requires doctors in China identify any outbreaks quickly and isolate patients.

Two million people become sick from superbugs — a term used to describe bacteria often resistant to multiple forms of antibiotics — according to the Center for Disease Control. The same information reports that around 20,000 people die of these diseases every year as well. Scientists say that the widespread misuse of antibiotics over the years has led to the rise of these superbugs.

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