The latest viral health scare has the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rightly concerned. Described as “a family of nightmare superbugs” a strain of bacteria known as Carbapenem-Resistant enterobacteriaceae, is on the rise and may as well become resistant to all known antibiotics.
CRE isn't common with percentages ranging from 1%-4% of infection over the last 10 years. However, the CDC reports that one particular strain of CRE has risen from 2% to 10%. Data shows that long-term hospital stays have increased the risk of a CRE infection in 2012 alone. Nursing facilities are also another area where CRE is most like to develop. The CDC notes, “Patients whose care requires devices like ventilators (breathing machines), urinary (bladder) catheters, or intravenous (vein) catheters, and patients who are taking long courses of certain antibiotics are among those at risk for CRE infections.”
According to the CDC, CRE’s biggest threat lies in the fact that its germs can spread quickly, make itself immune to almost all drugs, and in some cases, impossible to treat. The infection has the ability to cause a decline in health in an otherwise healthy person. CRE causes people to fall ill when germs apart of a person’s digestive system leaks into areas outside of the digestive system, such as the bladder and blood. Its power to share genes with other forms of bacteria makes it potent enough to possibly cause a widespread epidemic across the United States. CRE kills half of patients who get the disease in their blood stream. The infection has spread to 42 states and is currently not seeing any regression in the near future.
To fully understand the gravity of the situation, Neil Fisherman of the University of Pennsylvania Health System said that doctors are debating using old antibiotics, which can actually cause harm to the kidneys since the newer (and safer) are becoming no longer feasible. He told USA Today, "I've had to ask patients, 'Do you want a toxic antibiotic and end up on dialysis, or would you prefer to have a limb amputated?'"
Measures have been taken in order to prevent the worse case scenario involving CRE. The CDC has released guidelines for health care professionals to abide by. Patients can protect themselves through procedures such as insisting health care professionals wash their hands before touching them, not abusing the use of antibiotics, and informing a doctor of hospitalization within another country or medical center. The CDC also outlines what can be done to rein in the infection at the federal and state levels. Currently, hyper-awareness seems to be the best defense.