BETHESDA, Md. (WUSA) --- The National Institutes of Health here has spent the last 14 months trying to get control of a bacterial superbug that jumped from one patient, infected at least 16 others, and killed six of them.

"I got scared when we learned about the second case," said
Dr. Tara Palmore, an infectious disease physician and Deputy Hospital Epidemiologist at the NIH Clinical Center, where the outbreak took place.

"The danger is that in a hospital full of sick patients, as many hospitals are, these bacteria can spread easily and can make people sick," she said.

"Having one transmission of a highly resistent bacteria raises red flags in hospitals and so we put into place a number of draconian infection control measures to try to stop transmission," she told 9News Now.

Special units were built to treat only those who had been infected. Dedicated nursing staffs and housekeeping staffs dealt with no other patients.

"What is unusual that we did, I think, is having an adherence monitor, so we had staff members who were assigned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to stay in those units to ensure that visitors, health care personnel, all washed their hands and put on gowns and gloves appropriately," Palmore said.

In addition, NIH researchers engaged in some microscopic, hi-tech examination of the bacteria.

"They took the entire genome, all of the DNA from each of the bacteria, from each patient and sequenced them to identify all the similarities and differences , and what that achieved is it enabled us to to see the chain of transmission among patients.

"And, if that tool can be used early in future outbreaks in hospitals, it can actually be used to target infection control practices and possibly end the outbreaks," she said.

The practice helped NIH get the rogue bacteria under control.
It has had no new cases since January and continues to treat patients who were infected earlier.

NIH says there is no danger to the general community, that the bacteria is dangerous only to those who already have compromised immune systems and who are sick and hospitalized.

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