TODAY   |  August 24, 2012

Deadly, drug-resistant bacteria sweeps NIH hospital

A deadly strain of drug-resistant bacteria that first appeared in an NIH patient in June of last year showed up in the bloodstreams of other patients months later, infecting 18 by December, 11 of whom died. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a drug resistant super bug is blamed for the deaths of six people at the national institute of health . nbc's tom costello in bethesda, maryland with more. tom, good morning.

>> reporter: hey, natalie, good morning to you. hospital infections are all too common. experts say if a super bug can get loose here at the nih here with all they have to bear, it can happen anywhere. it happened here at one of the nation's elite research hospitals outside washington. a drug resistant strain of pneumonia kpc . first showed up last year in a 43-year-old female patient, immune compromised. while she was treated in isolation and released, two months later things got very scary. the super bug began showing up in the bloom stream of other patients.

>> during the course of this outbreak at nih, this bacteria developed resistance to all known antibiotics.

>> from june to december, a total of 18 patients infected, 11 died, though five died from their underlying diseases. it wasn't until researchers tried something new, 20th century detective work, and decoded the bacteria's dna that they were able to identify it and stop it from spreading.

>> we were frightened to death about the organism. we made a full-court press. we closed units, we constructed walls.

>> the center for disease control says the kpc strain first showed up in 2001 and has since spread to every state. each year one in 20 patients develops some sort of drug resistant infection in the hospital. nearly 100,000 die. kpc is just one of many bacteria that is now drug resistant . while doctors are desperate for new antibiotics to fight the bacteria, there's nothing in the immediate drug pipeline.

>> if we lose the ability to treat these organisms that are so common with the available antibiotics, we go back to the dark ages in terms of people dying of simple wound infections.

>> reporter: doctors at the cdc say if you or a loved one have to go to the hospitalf you're admitted, try to limit the time you're in any hospital and insist anyone who comes in the room, especially nurses, always washes their hands again and again. natalie, back to you.

>> good advice. tom costello in bethesda, maryland.