Rare and dangerous superbug strain found in Houston area

Scientists say strain is resistant to many commonly used antibiotics

Courtesy: Houston Methodist Hospital
Courtesy: Houston Methodist Hospital

HOUSTON – Scientists at Houston Methodist Research Institute have found a rare and dangerous strain of a superbug in the Houston area.

Researchers used genome sequencing to find the strain in more than one-third of local patients studied.

Dr. James Musser, who led the study, said the strain of a bacteria known as Klebsiella pneumoniae can cause very serious infection in hospitalized patients.

He added, "we urgently need to identify potential vaccine targets or other new treatments, and develop new and rapid diagnostic techniques.”

Another problem associated with the strain is that it has proven to be resistant to many commonly used antibiotics. Dr. S. Wesley Long, associate director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Houston Methodist Hospital, said the faster they can identify which antibiotics can work on the strain, the faster they can treat patients who have it.

Dr. Musser said the reason why K. pneumoniae is prevalent in the Houston area remains a mystery, but is the focus of ongoing research.

Earlier this year, K. pneumoniae made headlines worldwide when an elderly woman in Nevada died from a rare form of the superbug. She failed to respond to all 26 antibiotics used in the United States.