Hospitals must screen for superbugs like CRE or face deadly consequences

Hospitals must do a better job screening for antibiotic-resistant superbugs or face potentially deadly consequences.

Hospitals aren't doing enough to screen for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)  like they do for other antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA, Joshua Thaden, M.D., said in an interview with National Public Radio.

"… in Duke, for example, every patient that comes to the hospital, we screen for MRSA. When we detect it, we make sure we take specific precautions to prevent this from being transmitted to another person. We don't do that for things like CRE. Perhaps we need to start," Thaden, a fellow in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Duke University School of Medicine, told NPR.  

Thaden is the lead author of a study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology in June showing superbugs are on the rise in hospitals and healthcare facilities across the southeastern U.S., and pose a huge threat to hospitals across the country.

Researchers found that CRE infections, which can lead to infections in the lungs, urinary tract and blood and often strikes people with compromised immune systems, increased 500 percent within a cluster of 25 community hospitals between 2008 and 2012.

A contributing factor to the rise of superbugs like CRE is the overuse of antibiotics, which can allow bacteria to adapt and become resistant to the treatments typically used to combat them.

With antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the rise, hospitals look for a way to combat the problem, but are hand-sanitizing stations and dispensers scattered around modern-day hospitals the answer? Triclosan, though not found in most hand sanitizers, is used in many antibacterial hand soaps and cleansers, and may contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics or superbugs, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Soap and water is the best hand-washing option, but hand sanitizers are the next best thing when there aren't any sinks close by, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hand washing and prevention efforts will have to do for now, because progress for an antibiotic to battle CRE is slow. "The unfortunate reality is that it's probably years away, most likely, before we have new antibiotics," Thaden told NPR.

To learn more:
- listen to Thaden's interview
- here's the study
- read the FDA data
- check out the CDC data