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Bacteria are raising fears of illness that can't be stopped

The doctors tried one antibiotic after another, racing to stop the infection as it tore through the man's body, but nothing worked.

Just days after the middle-age patient arrived at the University of Virginia Medical Center, the stubborn bacteria in his blood had fought off even what doctors consider "drugs of last resort."

"It was very alarming; it was the first time we'd seen that kind of resistance," said Amy Mathers, one of the hospital's infectious disease specialists. "We didn't know what to offer the patient."

The man died three months later, but the bacteria weren't done. In the months that followed, they struck again and again in the same hospital, in various forms, as doctors raced to decipher the secret to their spread. The superbug that hit UVA four years ago -- and remains a threat -- belongs to a once-obscure family of drug-resistant bacteria that has lurked around U.S. hospitals and nursing homes for more than a decade. Now, it's attacking in hundreds of those institutions, a USA TODAY examination shows, and it's a fight the medical community is not positioned to win.
 
 

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