Story Summary

CDC Sounds Alarm on Spread of Deadly, Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

A deadly bacteria, known as CRE, that’s practically impervious to antibiotics is on the rise and has appeared in medical facilities in 42 U.S. states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 2 updates

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — There’s a new, major health concern Wednesday as new “superbugs” are spreading across the U.S, including here in Southern California.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the new family of bacteria, called CRE, are resistant to antibiotics and are killing half of the patients who are infected.

Los Angeles County public health officials say the so-called superbugs have evolved, grown stronger and are impervious to the strongest antibiotics.

“These resistant bacteria can cause urinary tract infections, bowel infections, blood stream infections and patients can die from these infections,” California Hospital Medical Center Dr. Suman Radhakrishna told KTLA.

Victims are mainly elderly people who already suffer from various illnesses and have weakened immune systems.

“These are patients who have been in and out of hospitals, in and out of ICUs, they are mainly nursing home patients,” Radhakrishna said.

Global case studies indicate about 40-percent of people infected die.

Cases of infection with the bacteria in this group were sporadic just ten years ago, but doctors say cases are now much more widespread.

That’s why health officials at all levels of government including L.A. County want to increase awareness.

Doctors say the first course of action is containment, then they can start working on a treatment.

A deadly bacteria that’s practically impervious to antibiotics is on the rise and has appeared in medical facilities in 42 U.S. states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

The rate of infection from carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, might seem low — 4% — but it has risen fourfold in just the last decade.

CRE is resistant even to last-resort drugs such as carbapenem and can potentially be very deadly.

nightmare-bug-cdcUp to half of patients who develop a bloodstream infection from CRE die, according to the CDC report.

CRE can infect many different body systems — the bloodstream, soft tissues, the urinary tract.

It thrives in hospitals, typically taking hold in already-sick patients, often via ventilators, catheters or other equipment handled by medical caregivers moving from patient to patient.

The bugs are particularly prevalent in certain areas, including the Northeast, and especially problematic in long-term acute-care hospitals — 18% of them had at least one CRE infection in the first six months of 2012, according to the CDC.

One such hospital in Florida reportedly had a whopping 44% infection rate.

The bacteria joins a handful of other hospital-acquired infections, such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and Clostridium difficile, that have proven challenging to root out in recent years.

Even worse, CRE can share its drug-resistant genes with other bugs — say, a normal E. coli bacteria, which is the most common cause of urinary tract infections in otherwise healthy folk.

To stop the bacteria’s spread, CDC Director Tom Frieden offered some advice via Twitter.

“Healthcare providers: Wash your hands before touching a patient every time! Prevent CRE,” he tweeted Tuesday.

The CDC’s 2012 toolkit on the bug also recommended that healthcare providers minimize the use of catheters, endotracheal tubes and other such medical devices to reduce incidence of infection, and to use specific staff members to take care of the CRE patients in a facility, so that nurses and other medical staff don’t inadvertently spread the bacteria to uninfected patients.

By launching coordinated plans of prevention, officials hope to stop CRE infection rates from becoming an epidemic. They may even be able to reverse the  trend. After a year of using CDC recommendations like the ones above, the CRE-ridden Florida hospital’s rate of infection went from 44% to 0%.

-Los Angeles Times