CDC: Deadly, drug-resistant bacteria spreading in U.S. healthcare facilities

Drug-resistant pathogens known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae are spreading in hospitals and are becoming more resistant to last-resort antibiotics, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CRE are deadly germs that pose a triple threat for healthcare workers. The bacteria are resistant to all, or almost all, antibiotics, including the most powerful treatments. Patients who become infected with CRE in the bloodstream have only a 50 percent survival rate. The deadly germs are easily able to transfer their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria.

For instance, carbapenem-resistant klebsiella can spread its resistance to normal E. coli bacteria. The E. coli then becomes resistant to antibiotics as well. Such an incident on a large scale could cause a healthcare disaster, since E. coli is the most common cause of urinary tract infections in healthy people.

Most CRE infections occur in people receiving significant medical care and often on the hands of healthcare workers.

Last year, the CDC released a CRE prevention toolkit which included in-depth recommendations to control the transmission of CRE in long-term acute care facilities, nursing homes and hospitals.

"CRE are nightmare bacteria," Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, said. "Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections. Doctors, nurses, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC's 'detect and protect' strategy and stop these infections from spreading."