Action needed to halt deadly bacteria


Data shows that more inpatients are suffering infections from bacteria resistant to all or nearly all antibiotics. A family of bacteria has become increasingly resistant to last-resort antibiotics during the past decade, and more hospitalized patients are getting lethal infections that, in some cases, are impossible to cure.

The findings, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Vital Signs report, are a call to action for the entire healthcare community to work urgently – individually, regionally and nationally – to protect patients. During just the first half of 2012, almost 200 hospitals and long-term acute care facilities treated at least one patient infected with these bacteria.   

The bacteria, Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), kill up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them. In addition to spreading among patients, often on the hands of health care personnel, CRE bacteria can transfer their resistance to other bacteria within their family.

This type of spread can create additional life-threatening infections for patients in hospitals and potentially for otherwise healthy people. Currently, almost all CRE infections occur in people receiving significant medical care in hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, or nursing homes.

“CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections,” said CDC Director Dr Tom Frieden. “Doctors, hospital leaders, and public health must work together now to implement CDC’s ‘detect and protect’ strategy and stop these infections from spreading.”

The CDC has released a concise, practical CRE prevention toolkit with in-depth recommendations for hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, nursing homes and health departments. Key recommendations include enforcing use of infection control precautions (standard and contact precautions); grouping patients with CRE together; dedicating staff, rooms and equipment to the care of patients with CRE; whenever possible having facilities alert each other when patients with CRE transfer back and forth; asking patients whether they have recently received care somewhere else (including another country); and using antibiotics wisely.

In addition, CDC recommends screening patients in certain scenarios to determine if they are carrying CRE.

infections, antibiotics, Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, bacteria