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CDC Touts Efforts To Fight Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, Including In Kentucky

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are touting more than $1 million that went toward Kentucky in fiscal year 2017 to fight the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The money is part of a national effort created under former President Barack Obama’s administration in 2014.

So-called "super-bugs" — bacteria that don't respond to existing antibiotics — are a growing problem in the U.S. Part of the problem has roots in the agricultural sector, where antibiotics are often routinely used on livestock, including animals that aren’t even sick.

Since 2016, the CDC has given states $144 million in efforts to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria, including the $1.1 million Kentucky got last year.

Kentucky is using about $409,000 of this money to do more investigations of cases where people had a bacterial infection but available prescription drugs were not effective in killing the bacteria.

Michael Craig, senior advisor for antibiotic resistance coordination and strategy at the CDC, said this money was used to identify an outbreak of patients in health care facilities who had a type of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

“That testing capacity allows states to identify when they have these rare forms and when they do they do an outbreak investigation, to track the source and or spread of that to other patients,” Craig said.

Kentucky officials were eventually successful in stopping the spread of the bacteria by identifying patients who had that drug-resistant bacterial infection. The CDC estimates that this specific bacteria — Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae — is the cause of more than 9,000 infections that happen while people are in a hospital or nursing home.

The state was also able to investigate how that bacteria had evolved to be resistant to the bacteria. This can give the CDC and other scientists clues for creating drugs that can fight these resistant bacteria.

Genome Sequencing

Another chunk of the money from CDC went to a new project that uses genome sequencing — a relatively new technology — to analyze bacteria resistant to antibiotics. That technology can help the CDC obtain additional information about the bacteria, like for example, the the links between related resistant bacteria.

“It can identify where there are relationships that need to be investigated, and those might be in the same state or in a multi-state outbreak,” Craig said. “And with that information CDC is able to respond more quickly to identify the causes of the outbreaks before they spread more widely,” Craig said.

The state was not available for comment on these projects at time of publication.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.