Untreatable Bacteria Threaten Hospitals, CDC Warns

By Hilda Scott , Mar 06, 2013 11:22 AM EST

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out a warning about the threat of drug resistant bacteria known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). More hospitalized patients are getting infected and treating the germs with antibiotics won't help in some cases.   

Over the past decade, CRE has become resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics. The infection occurs in hospitalized patients and can enter the bloodstream and be fatal. It kills one in two patients and it's often transferred by healthcare workers, person to person.

CRE can make other bacteria like E.coli antibiotic-resistant too. E.coli is a common bacteria and the leading cause of urinary tract infections in healthy people. It would be a very bad scenario if such a common germ were to become anti-biotic resistant. Patients with immune deficiencies are especially at risk, as their systems have a tough time fighting germs.

"CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections. Doctors, nurses, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC's 'detect and protect' strategy and stop these infections from spreading," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a press release.

The CDC provided health care professionals with a CRE prevention toolkit, recommendations to keep CRE from being spread. In addition to hospitals, long term acute care facilities and nursing homes are also at risk. The germs can be spread from one facility to another and the regional "Detect and Protect" approach to handling CRE is a way to put prevention programs into action.

"We have seen in outbreak after outbreak that when facilities and regions follow CDC's prevention guidelines, CRE can be controlled and even stopped. As trusted health care providers, it is our responsibility to prevent further spread of these potentially deadly bacteria," said Dr. Michael Bell, acting director of CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion.

A CRE Toolkit issued in 2012 explains how CRE threatens public health and recommendations for health professionals to detect and prevent it from spreading. 

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