A drug resistance gene that allows bacteria to repel certain antibiotics has started to appear in microorganisms taken from Midwestern U.S. patients.

Less than a decade ago, scientists first noticed the BlaKPC gene in bacteria taken from East Coast patients. They found bacteria with an active copy of the gene could defeat carbapenems, a relatively young family of antibiotics that is generally reserved for use in the most critically ill patients.

Washington University School of Medicine researchers in St. Louis say their study is among the first to detect the resistance gene in samples taken from patients at a Midwestern hospital.

"It's relatively easy for us to find this gene, but most hospitals don't have access to the same high-tech methods that we have at a major medical center," said senior author Dr. David Warren. "To help slow the spread of this gene, we need to look at whether we can develop a more effective way to detect it using widely available equipment and procedures."

The research was presented Wednesday in Chicago during the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.