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CRE infections killing hospitalized patients reports CDC

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
CRE infection, fatalities, prevention, antibiotic resistant

According to a new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotics are being overpowered by lethal bacteria known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

CRE infections are causing lethal infections in patients receiving inpatient medical care in hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, and nursing homes. The CDC stresses that rapid action by healthcare professionals is needed to stop the rise of lethal CRE infections and offers helpful guidelines to assist them. The CDC notes that CRE are in the same family as Escherichia coli (E. coli); both bacteria are common inhabitants of the intestinal tract where they do no harm. However, some of these germs have developed defenses to ward off all or almost all antibiotics currently available for treatment of bacterial infections. When these germs get into the blood, bladder or other areas where bacteria do not belong, patients suffer from infections that are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. The CDC has warned about CRE for more than a decade; however, new information reveals that these germs are now becoming more common. One type of CRE has been detected in medical facilities in 42 states. Even more alarming, the current CDC report documents a seven-fold increase in the spread of the most common type of CRE during the past 10 years.

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Although these infections are currently uncommon, the CDC notes that their increasing presence is extremely worrisome because they kill up to half of the individuals who people who are infected by them. In addition to causing lethal infections among patients, CRE have an exceptional ability to pass on their antibiotic-fighting abilities to other types of bacteria. This means that in the near future, more bacteria will become immune to treatment, and more patients’ lives could be at risk from routine bladder or wound infections. The CDC cautions that without serious efforts to stop CRE in medical facilities, and without rapid improvement in the way physicians throughout the nation prescribe antibiotics, CRE will likely become a problem in the community, among otherwise healthy people not receiving medical care.

On a positive note, the CDC notes that there have been major successes in stopping CRE in medical facilities in the US as well as other nations. The agency notes that stopping CRE will take a rapid, coordinated, and aggressive “Detect and Protect” action that includes intense infection prevention work and antibiotic prescribing changes. In 2012, the CDC released a CRE prevention toolkit that reiterated practical CRE prevention and control steps. The agency stresses that leadership and medical staff in hospitals, long-term acute care hospitals, nursing homes, health departments, and even outpatient practices must work together to implement these recommendations to protect patients from CRE.

Reference: CDC