The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling on the hospitals and healthcare providers to act to halt the spread of deadly bacteria that has proven resistant to last-resort antibiotics.
The bacteria, Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), causes a fatality rate of 50 percent in patients who get bloodstream infections from them. To make matters worse, CRE bacteria spreads its resistance to antibiotics to other bacteria within their family, putting other patients and individuals at risk.
"CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections," CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said yesterday in an announcement. "Doctors, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC's 'detect and protect' strategy and stop these infections from spreading."
According to the CDC, enterobacteriaceae are a family of more than 70 bacteria such as klebsiella pneumonia and E. coli. Some of them over time have become resistant to a group of last-resort antibiotics know as carbapenems.
The CDC reports that while CRE are still rare, the percentage of enterobacteriaceae that are resistant to carbapenems has increased fourfold over the last decade. Klebsiella pneumonia has shown a seven-fold increase over the same time period. This is the bug that was responsible for an outbreak in 2011 at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center that killed seven people, according to The Washington Post.
"The message that we're trying to send is there's an opportunity here," CDC's Arjun Srinivasan, M.D., associate director for healthcare-associated prevention programs, said in an interview with NBC News. "It's an uncommon issue, but it's concerning. There's an opportunity to act while it's still uncommon."
In 2012, the CDC released a CRE prevention toolkit, which includes instructions on how to control the transmission of the bacteria in hospitals, long-term acute care facilities and nursing homes.