A bacteria is worrying healthcare professionals after its infected patients in several US hospitals and has become resistant to the strongest antibiotics.
Experts say nearly four percent of hospital patients contracted the bacteria in the first half of last year, while other hospitals, particularly specialty hospitals, report higher numbers.
The bacteria morphs into a blood infection and doctors are unable to treat it.
Dr. Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said health officials have to work with one another to find a solution.
Doctors currently believe the bacteria is threatening all patients in hospitals and nursing homes.
Called Carbapenen-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), the bacteria has not spread beyond the hospitals yet, and officials are working on trying to prevent it from spreading.
“It’s not often that our scientists come to me and say we have a very serious problem and we need to sound an alarm. But that’s exactly what we are doing today. Our strongest antibiotics don’t work, and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections,” Frieden said.
It is a deadly bacteria, killing half of the patients it infects. It also causes other bacteria to grow resistant to antibiotics.
Currently, the bacteria is affecting the Northeast more than any other area. The worst case of CRE involved 18 patients, of which seven died.
While it is serious and deadly, Frieden said if officials act fast they will be able to prevent it from spreading.
“The good news is we now have an opportunity to prevent its further spread. We only have a limited window of opportunity to stop this infection from spreading to the community and spreading to more organisms,” he said.
It poses a great threat to those staying in hospitals for longer periods of times. The longer a patient stays in the hospital, the more at risk they are of contracting CRE.
As officials try to figure out a solution, the CDC has told doctors to use antibiotics carefully and to group those with CRE together to avoid infection of other patients.