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'Nightmare' Bacteria Spreading in U.S. Hospitals,

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What's needed are new antibiotics, Siegel said, adding that pharmaceutical companies lack the financial motivation to develop them right now. "Eventually, there will be enough resistance so drug companies will have a financial incentive. In the meantime, lives can be lost," he said.

Added Dr. Ghinwa Dumyati, associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester in New York: "At this time, our best prevention is detection and infection control. The incidence [of CRE] is low and we are looking to prevent it before it gets much higher and we cannot control it."

To beat back the spread of these bacteria, the CDC wants hospitals and other health-care facilities to take the following steps:

  • Enforce infection-control precautions.
  • Group together patients with CRE.
  • Segregate staff, rooms and equipment to patients with CRE.
  • Tell facilities when patients with CRE are transferred.
  • Use antibiotics carefully.

Additional funding of research and technology is critical to prevent and quickly identify CRE, the CDC said.

Countries where CRE is more common have had some success controlling it.

Israel, for example, worked to reduce CRE in its 27 hospitals, and CRE rates dropped by more than 70 percent. Some U.S. facilities and states have also seen similar reductions, the agency said.

"We have seen in outbreak after outbreak that when facilities and regions follow the CDC's prevention guidelines, CRE can be controlled and even stopped," Dr. Michael Bell, acting director of the CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, said in the news release. "As trusted health-care providers, it is our responsibility to prevent further spread of these deadly bacteria."

Siegel said there are measures patients can take to reduce their risk of infection. "No. 1 on the list is [not to] wish that your hospital stay is extended. Patients think they are safer at the hospital, but that may not be true," he said. "And try to go into a clean hospital."

Patients should also make sure doctors and staff wear gloves and wash their hands when treating them, he said.

More information

For more information on CRE bacteria, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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