The findings of a Washington University School of Medicine study suggest that common bacteria could be on the verge of becoming antibiotic resistant super bugs.

Researchers said a family of bacteria commonly found in hospitals may be building defenses against some antibiotics. Doctor Gautam Dantas said this resistance will likely spread globally and the results could be deadly.  Dantas said physicians need to be judicious in how they use antibiotics.

Super bug - antibiotic-resistant bacteria (CDC/James Archer)

Super bug – antibiotic-resistant bacteria (CDC/James Archer)

“It’s a little bit of a conundrum. If we don’t get the antibiotics, people might succumb, but the more we give them, the more resistant the bugs become,” said Dantas.  “Every time we use an antibiotic, we run an experiment.  We run an experiment where we challenge bacteria to get more resistant and we need to save that for the times when it’s absolutely necessary.”

The study shows two genes found in a bacteria family frequently implicated in respiratory and urinary infections in hospitals are forming resistance against a strong class of antibiotics. Carbapenems, the strong antibiotics, are what are usually used to treat gravely ill patients suffering from bacteria infections.

Dantas said sick people with weakened immune systems visiting the intensive care unit could be at risk.

“If you happen to get an infection from one of these bugs, there’s a greater than 50 percent chance you won’t make it out,” said Dantas.  “If you were healthy, you could be carrying that same bug around and it will probably do nothing to you.”

The study was conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and the National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan.