'Nightmare' Bacteria Spreading in U.S. Hospitals,
By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- A "nightmare" bacteria that is resistant to powerful antibiotics and kills half of those it infects has surfaced in nearly 200 U.S. hospitals and nursing homes, federal health officials reported Tuesday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 4 percent of U.S. hospitals and 18 percent of nursing homes had treated at least one patient with the bacteria, called Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), within the first six months of 2012.
"CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a news release. "Doctors, hospital leaders and public health [officials] must work together now to implement the CDC's 'detect and protect' strategy and stop these infections from spreading."
"The good news," Frieden added at an afternoon teleconference, "is we now have an opportunity to prevent its further spread." But, he continued, "We only have a limited window of opportunity to stop this infection from spreading to the community and spreading to more organisms."
CRE are in a family of more than 70 bacteria called enterobacteriaceae, including Klebsiella pneumoniae and E. coli, that normally live in the digestive system.
In recent years, some of these bacteria have become resistant to last-resort antibiotics known as carbapenems.
Although CRE bacteria are not yet found nationwide, they have increased fourfold within the United States in the past decade, with most cases reported in the Northeast.
Health officials said they're concerned about the rapid spread of the bacteria, which can endanger the lives of patients and healthy people. For example, in the last 10 years, the CDC tracked one CRE from one health-care facility to similar facilities in 42 states.
One type of CRE, a resistant form of Klebsiella pneumoniae, has increased sevenfold in the past decade, according to the CDC's March 5 Vital Signs report.
"To see bacteria that are resistant is worrisome, because this group of bacteria are very common," said Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
Most CRE infections to date have been in patients who had prolonged stays in hospitals, long-term facilities and nursing homes, the report said.
The bacteria kill up to half the patients whose bloodstream gets infected and are easily spread from patient to patient on the hands of health-care workers, the CDC said.
Moreover, CRE bacteria can transfer their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria of the same type.
This problem is the result of the overuse of antibiotics, Siegel said. "The more you use an antibiotic, the more resistance is going to emerge," he said. "This is an indictment of the overuse of this class of antibiotic."