Sources: NPR (National Public Radio); US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
WE’VE blogged about MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), VRE (cancomycin Resistant Enterococcus) and C-Diff (Clostridium difficile). Get ready to add another nasty super bug to the list -CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae).
Federal officials warn that the newest kid on the block has become a significant health problem in hospitals throughout the United States. These germs, known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, have become much more common in the last decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the risk they pose to health is becoming evident. “What’s called CRE are nightmare bacteria,” says Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, “They’re basically a triple threat.” First of all, they are resistant to virtually all antibiotics, including the ones doctors use as a last-ditch option. Second, these bugs can transfer their invincibility to other bacteria. “The mechanism of resistance to antibiotics not only works for one bacteria, but can be spread to others,” Frieden says. Third, the bacteria can be deadly. Infection with the bacteria “have a fatality rate as high as 50 percent,” Frieden says.
While resistant bacteria potentially pose a risk to anyone, people whose immune systems are weaker, such as elderly people, children and people who have other health problems, tend to be most susceptible to infection.
CDC data show the proportion of bacteria that have this resistance to many drugs has quadrupled in the last decade or so. CRE cases were reported by 4 percent of hospitals in 2012, up from about 1 percent from about a decade earlier, according to the report. In long-term care hospitals the situation is even worse — about 18 percent have reported cases, the CDC says. In addition, the proportion of Enterobacteriaceae bacteria that were resistant increased from 1.2 percent in 2001 to 4.2 percent in 2011, the CDC reported.
The big fear is that they’ll start to move out of hospitals and into the communities around them. “If CRE spreads out of hospitals and into communities, that’s when the ship is totally underwater and we all drown,” Infectious disease specialist Dr. Brad Spellberg, of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, says. To prevent that from happening, the CDC and others are calling on hospitals to contain CRE. The first thing hospitals need to do is test patients to see if they have these bugs. That includes common-sense things like keeping them away from other patients and sterilizing everything they come into contact with. And doctors have to use antibiotics more carefully to prevent more germs from developing into more dangerous superbugs.
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