Genetic mutations have rendered these strains protected against rifampicin, a widely used drug for a plethora of bacterial infections. Unexpectedly, said mutations have also given them a reduced susceptibility to teicoplanin and vancomycin, two very different types of antibiotic that are thought of as being a last line of defense against such infections.
The researchers don’t beat around the bush with their assessment of the strains’ rapid ascendances. They explain that the frequent deployment of rifampicin-treated equipment in hospitals – particularly invasive devices – has possibly driven the evolution of these microbes.
“Once trivialized as a contaminant,” it is, according to the authors, now leaning towards “potentially incurable infections.”
At present, it is unclear if or how such strains may be proliferating outside hospital environments. What is certain, however, is that something must be done immediately to stop its spread within hospitals, particularly in intensive care units.
“We know what we’re currently doing is just leading to more resistance,” senior author Prof. Ben Howden, a clinician and the director of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at the Doherty Institute, said in a statement. “So, we urgently need to think about what we should be recommending instead.”
It’s obvious that, perhaps until now, S. epidermis was not a high priority for various health agencies.
On the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website, they list the so-called superbugs that most concern them. MRSA is listed under the second-highest category of “serious threats,” while vancomycin-resistant S. aureus is listed in the lowest (but still noteworthy) category of “concerning threats.”
Notably absent is S. epidermis. It’s not on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) drug resistance site either. Its invasion by stealth, then, has come as a rather unpleasant surprise.