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'Nightmare bacteria' on the rise in U.S. hospitals, CDC says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Untreatable, tough-to-treat infections from the deadly "superbug" are on the rise in U.S. hospitals. Health officials say it's very important that we find a way to deal with their spread before the situation gets any worse.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - About four percent of U.S. acute-care hospitals and 18 percent of long-term acute care hospitals reported at least one case of dangerous CRE bacteria last year. Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae are germs resistant to most last-resort antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from about 3,900 U.S. hospitals in the first six months of 2012.

"CRE are nightmare bacteria," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told journalists.

While CRE remains rare, analysis from three different data pools revealed a big jump in the infections during the past decade. The percentage of certain bacteria reported to be resistant to carbapenem antibiotics rose from 1.2 percent in 2001 to 4.2 percent in 2011, a spike of about 250 percent.

"The message that we're trying to send is there's an opportunity here," the CDC's Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for healthcare-associated prevention programs said. "It's an uncommon issue, but it's concerning. There's an opportunity to act while it's still uncommon."

CREs increased most for the most unwelcome Klebsiella pneumoniae, which rose from 1.6 percent to 10.4 percent between 2001 and 2011, a rise of 550 percent. Klebsiella pneumoniae made headlines last summer after reports that it was part of an outbreak that swept through the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center near Washington, D.C., killing seven people, including a 16-year-old boy.

CREs is part of a family of drug-resistant germs that have shown up in growing numbers of U.S. health care settings. They're named for their ability to fight off carbapenem antibiotics, which have traditionally been the major drugs used to treat serious infections. CRE infections typically show up in people who've been hospitalized frequently, who have been taking antibiotics and who may require devices such as ventilators or catheters, and are often present as hard-to-treat bloodstream or urinary tract infections.

CRE infections tied to Klebsiella now have been detected in 42 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. The mortality rate for CRE bloodstream infections can be as high as 50 percent and CRE infections can spread like wildfire through a hospital.

No one knows exactly how many cases there have been in the U.S. or how many deaths may be tied to CREs, Srinivasan said.

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