CDC urges immediate action to contain superbug CRE, a ‘nightmare bacteria’

CDC microbiologist Alicia Shams demonstrates the most common form of CRE growing on an agar plate.

CDC microbiologist Alicia Shams demonstrates the most common form of CRE growing on an agar plate.

CDC Director Tom Frieden dubbed CRE (short for Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae) a ‘nightmare bacteria’ in a recent press conference calling on health officials to work together across the board to contain the superbug.

CRE strains, according to Dr. Frieden, pose a “triple-threat” because:

  • They are resistant to all or nearly all antibiotics
  • They have a high mortality rate, killing up to half of infected patients
  • They are capable of spreading their resistance to other bacteria, passing along genes that can spur on the development of new superbugs equally undeterred by current antibiotics

CRE germs have increased from 1% to 4% in the past decade and have now been reported in 42 states. In fact, roughly 18% of long-term acute care hospitals and 4% of short-stay hospitals in the US reported CRE infections in the first half of 2012 alone.

Though almost all CRE infections currently occur in patients receiving serious medical care in hospitals, long term care facilities, and nursing homes, there is a larger concern that the increasingly common bacteria will migrate and thrive in the outside world. There, CRE will be far more difficult to manage as it continues to adapt, reproduce, and spread its resistance to a wider range of bacteria. Thus, the CDC is urging the health care community to work together at all levels to help enforce proper sanitation and infection control procedures now so that this ‘nightmare’ scenario can be avoided.

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