Washington: Deadly infections from bacteria that have become
resistant to antibiotics are on the rise in the US, and hospitals
and health care workers must take immediate action to protect
patients, doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) said.
"Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with
potentially untreatable infections," said CDC Director Tom Frieden.
"Doctors, hospital leaders, and public health must work together
now to implement CDC's 'detect and protect' strategy and stop
these infections from spreading."
The germs - called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE
- are "nightmare bacteria", said Frieden, and kill up to half of
the patients who get bloodstream infections from them.
They are resistant to a class of antibiotics known as carbapenem,
often used as a last resort to fight resistant bacterial
CRE normally live in the digestive system, but over the past
decade they have become resistant to antibiotics and can transfer
that resistance to other bacteria.
Infections don't currently occur in healthy patients, but people
who need breathing machines, urinary or intravenous catheters or
take certain antibiotics long-term are most at risk, according to
So far, CRE has been found only in hospitals or nursing homes.
In the first half of 2012, at least 200 health care facilities
reported at least one patient with CRE, said the CDC.
The bacteria are generally transmitted from person to person,
often on the hands of health care workers, and can be carried from
one facility to another.
"We have seen in outbreak after outbreak that when facilities and
regions follow CDC's prevention guidelines, CRE can be controlled
and even stopped," said Michael Bell, acting director of the CDC's
Division of Health Care Quality Promotion.
"As trusted health care providers, it is our responsibility to
prevent further spread of these deadly bacteria."
Recommendations include grouping patients with CRE together,
dedicating specific staff and equipment for CRE patients, and
implementing an alert system when CRE patients are transferred to
According to Costi Sifri, an infectious disease physician and
hospital epidemiologist at the University of Virginia Health
System, when antibiotics no longer help, doctors are looking for
other treatments, including surgery to cut out infected tissue,
USA Today reported.
The country could be entering the beginning of the
"post-antibiotic era", said Sifri.