Cluster of uncommon superbug strain found in Houston

Scientists from the Houston Methodist Research Institute using genome sequencing found that more than one-third of Houston Methodist patients studied were infected with a rare Klebsiella pneumoniae strain.

"Finding the otherwise uncommon train in our city was a surprising discovery," said James Musser, MD, PhD, senior author of the study published in mBio. "Because Klebsiella pneumoniae is a common and important cause of human infections, we urgently need to identify potential vaccine targets or other new treatments, and develop new and rapid diagnostic techniques."

Dr. Musser and his team and colleagues at the Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago sequenced and analyzed the genomes of 1,777 K. pneumoniae strains that caused infections in Houston Methodist patients between September 2011 and May 2015.

The most dominant strain was clone type 307, which had not previously been identified as an abundant cause of infection in one city.

"The faster we can successfully identify which antibiotics this strain is sensitive to, the faster a treating physician can target the appropriate therapy to those ill patients," said S. Wesley Long, MD, PhD, the study's first author. "Our discoveries also give us the tools to begin to understand how the germ is spreading throughout the Houston area."

Dr. Musser said he doesn't know why this particular strain of bacteria is so prevalent in Houston.

The good news is the strain is still susceptible to certain antibiotics.

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