A potentially deadly type of superbug, Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, has prompted government health officials to renew warnings for U.S. nursing homes, hospitals and other health care settings.
Unusual forms of CRE are extremely dangerous because they are resistant to nearly all last-resort antibiotics. Israeli researchers are reporting that it can take carriers of some forms of CRE more than a year before they test negative for the bacteria. This obviously makes the superbugs harder to control and raises the risk that they will spread.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that unusual forms of CRE in the U.S. are on the rise. Of 37 cases of rare forms of CRE, 15 have been reported since last July. “This increase highlights the need for U.S. health care providers to act aggressively to prevent the emergence and spread of these unusual CRE organisms,” the CDC said in a health advisory.
According to Vitals, CREs usually strike people who are already ill. They especially prey on those who require devices such as ventilators or catheters or people have been taking antibiotics for a long time. However, they can infect any patient.
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The CDC's Dr. Alex Kallen, a medical epidemiologist and outbreak response coordinator in the agency’s Healthcare Quality Promotion division, is especially concerned by the appearance of NDM, a particularly worrisome CRE. NDM is resistant to multiple drugs and can easily be transmitted to other types of bacteria.
Right now the CDC is focusing on discovering evidence of CRE infections. “Our main objective is to slow or stop the spread in places where we can identify them,” said Kallen. “Right now, the therapeutic options are very limited.”
Since the situation has the potential to be so serious, CDC officials are hoping that simply raising awareness among the general public as well as the health care providers is key.“I can’t predict the future, of course, but there is a concern that we can see more of these as they spread,” Kallen said. “This can become a community bug.”