'Nightmare bacteria' spreading in Southeast

Experts say new data should serve as a 'wakeup call' for hospitals

Instances of the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) superbug—also known as 'nightmare bacteria'—increased five-fold in community hospitals in the Southeastern U.S. between 2008 and 2012, according to a new study in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

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

CRE has a rare enzyme that breaks down antibiotics, leaving about half of the patients it infects dead. According to a CDC report published last March, the strain is becoming more common and has made an appearance at health care facilities in at least 42 states, including major outbreaks in Florida and Illinois.

For the study, researchers examined 25 community hospitals in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia between January 2008 and December 2012. It found 305 cases of the bacteria, which is relatively low, but researchers worry the number of cases is under-reported.

Drug-resistant bacteria lingers in 48% of patient rooms

Joshua Thaden, the study's lead author, says, "The fact that were are seeing an increase [in instances of the disease] is concerning" and calls the new data a "wakeup call for hospitals on how to detect the disease."

To prevent the spread of CRE, in 2012 CDC released a set of guidelines  advising health care facilities to:

  • Use antibiotics only as needed;
  • Enforce infection-control protocols at all times;
  • Put patients with CRE together;
  • Segregate rooms, equipment, and staff used to treat patients with CRE; and
  • Alert other facilities when patients with CRE are transferred (Koba, CNBC, 7/24).

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