Yeah, that's the reaction we had when we first heard the name in a recent release from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are killers to approximately 23,000 Americans every year, but the CDC says it found 221 cases of unusually resistant superbugs – which it's dubbing "nightmare bacteria" – in the U.S. in 2017.
That's why the CDC is raising awareness.
“CDC’s study found several dangerous pathogens, hiding in plain sight, that can cause infections that are difficult or impossible to treat,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D.
They're in all 50 states
Such cases in Minnesota have been rare, but Hennepin County Medical Center infectious disease doctor, Nick Vogenthaler, is on the lookout.
"It's something that we definitely worry about," he explained to BMTN. "This is not something simply isolated to the United States. This is a global public health problem."
One such case the CDC identified was discovered just across the border in Iowa, where a health department found "nightmare bacteria" in a nursing home patient.
After screening 30 patients they found that the superbug had spread to five people.
The patients were isolated for treatment and no further spread was detected.
Minnesota hospitals are prepared
Vogenthaler believes the CDC's report was released for two primary reasons, neither aimed at scaring the crap out of everyone.
- Stress the importance of health facilities being prepared at the chance these superbugs are found.
- Promote appropriate use of antibiotics, because that's how drug-resistant bacteria are created.
To the first point, the CDC says isolating and treating patients right away is critical.
For example, the CDC's study on one particular bacteria shows that rapid containment treatment "would prevent as many as 1,600 new infections in three years in a single state."
If the germs go untreated, they can spread like wildfire.
"We have the right people here at our hospital with experience treating the infections when we do have them," Vogenthaler said. "We also have good working relationships with our local public health department, and they have good working relationships with the CDC."
All in all, nightmare bacteria is a serious threat, and Vogenthaler believes its name will help raise awareness.
"I think it's worth raising the alarm," he said. "If you're at least taking notice that they exist, that they're common, that they can spread, and that they can really cause significant morbidity and mortality, if that's enough to encourage people to continue to support fighting them, then I think it's worth it."