U.S. Hospitals and nursing homes in 41 states have reported the spread of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) infections amongst their patients since the first case was reported back in 2001. CRE are highly adaptive bacteria that can resist all carbapenem antibiotics including the last resort drugs. What is alarming is there is no cure for these types of infections. With no effective antibiotics to fight off the CRE infections, the CRE is killing its victims.
Already it is estimated that 50% of infected persons do not survive from CRE infections. “From the perspective of drug-resistant organisms, (CRE) is the most serious threat, the most serious challenge we face to patient safety,” says Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for prevention of health care-associated infections at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How do people get CRE infections?
CRE infections are most commonly contracted in hospital and long-term health care facilities where patients are being treated for other ailments. CRE bacteria prey on patients with weakened immune systems. Patients needing urinary or intravenous catheters, breathing ventilators or surgery are at higher risk. Patients undergoing long term antibiotic treatment are also susceptible.
The problem health care officials face with CRE infections is very little is known or documented about how the bacteria mutate and become resistant. What they do know is it mutates quickly and spreads rapidly amongst patients. Because CRE mutate quickly, drug research developers are reluctant to dump millions of dollars into producing an antibiotic that works effectively against CRE. Their concern is that the CRE bacteria will quickly adapt itself to any new antibiotic produced thus making their cure almost immediately ineffective once created.
With no cure on the horizon, how will CRE affect hospitals? Some predict the this superbug will limit the types of surgeries and treatments hospitals will use in the future to avoid more CRE outbreaks and liability issues. If this happens, patients are likely to see less medical treatments offered to them.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Healthcare-associated Infections – Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) Infection.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/cre/cre-patients.html (accessed July 31, 2014).
Ridel, Kaitlyn. “Deadly ‘superbugs’ invade U.S. health care facilities.” . http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/29/bacteria-deadly-hospital-infection/1727667/ (accessed July 31, 2014).