A deadly bacteria that is resistant to the strongest antibiotics is spreading through hospitals across the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging hospitals to take action.
The bacteria, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, has grown over the past decade and grown resistant to even the strongest antibiotics. According to the CDC, half of the people infected by the bacteria will die.
When these resistant bacteria invade parts of the body where they do not belong, like the bloodstream, lungs or urinary tract, the illness may be untreatable.
In the first half of 2012, 200 health care facilities treated people with CRE and forty-two states have had cases of the infection. Nationwide, about 4 percent of short-stay hospitals reported such infections in the first half of 2012, but the rate was much higher - 18 percent - among long-term acute-care hospitals, which treat people who need ventilators for a long time or who have other chronic problems.
The CDC is urging doctors and hospitals to implement a "detect and protect" strategy, which includes making sure proper hand hygiene policies are followed, screening patients for CRE and isolating patients infected with the bacteria. Also, catheters and intravenous lines should be removed as quickly as possible, because they can be avenues of infection, and doctors should prescribe antibiotics only when they are truly needed.
Each year, hospital-acquired infections sicken about 1.7 million and kill 99,000 people in the United States. While up to 50% of patients with CRE bloodstream infections die, similar antibiotic-susceptible bacteria kill about 20% of bloodstream-infected patients.
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Source: CNN, "CDC: 'Nightmare Bacteria' spreading," March, 6, 2013.