Treating illnesses might seem easier than ever with the vast array of medication available, but a new study reveals that a group of drug-resistant bacteria may be spread more commonly than doctors previously believed.

Researchers from Harvard and MIT looked at the antibiotic-resistant CRE bacteria, which causes ailments like pneumonia and urinary tract infections, in four hospitals. There were 250 samples of bacteria from patients in Boston and California used in the study. The doctors discovered that not only is CRE more common than anticipated, but that people may unknowingly pass the bacteria on to others without showing any symptoms.

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Findings also show that antibiotic-resistant CRE bacteria have a diverse genetic makeup and can transfer their traits to other CRE breeds. The species also has multiple ways to resist treatments, indicating there are many more waiting to be discovered, making it an ongoing threat.

This research highlights the importance of prevention and not just treatment, as is the typical practice in health care.

“We need to look harder for this unobserved transmission within our communities and healthcare facilities if we want to stamp it out," said senior study author William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, in a press release.

Doctors now say antibiotic-resistant bacteria more easily spread than once believed. Pixabay

"If it is right that we are missing a lot of transmission, then only focusing on cases of disease is like playing Whack-a-Mole; we can be sure the bacteria will pop up again somewhere else,” said Hanage.

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While the findings are scary, you don’t have to go around avoiding all human contact just yet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy people don’t have to worry about catching a CRE infection. The most at-risk patients are those in hospitals and nursing homes, patients who require devices like ventilators, and people who take some antibiotics long term.

See also:

Common Antibiotics May Be Causing Delirium And Seizures In Some Patients

A Brief History Of Antibiotic Resistance: How A Medical Miracle Turned Into The Biggest Public Health Danger Of Our Time