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Distinctive patterns are produced when Enterobacteriaceae is tested for resistance to
Distinctive patterns are produced when Enterobacteriaceae is tested for resistance to "last resort" antibiotics.
Photo credit: CDC

CDC presses hospitals to fight spread of superbug

By Maureen McKinney
Posted: March 5, 2013 - 1:45 pm ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a call to action to U.S. hospitals, urging them to take steps to prevent the spread of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriacea, a deadly superbug that is often impossible to treat.

According to a CDC report issued Tuesday, nearly 200 hospitals and long-term acute-care facilities treated at least one patient with CRE during the first six months of 2012. And the number of infections is increasing, the agency said.

For instance, one type of CRE, a drug-resistant form of Klebsiella pneumoniae—linked to a 2012 outbreak that claimed the lives of eight patients at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, Md.—has increased sevenfold over the past decade, the CDC said.

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CRE kills up to 50% of patients who get bloodstream infections from it, the agency said in the report.

“CRE are nightmare bacteria,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC's director, said in a news release. “Our strongest antibiotics don't work, and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections. Doctors, hospital leaders and public health must work together now to implement CDC's 'detect and protect' strategy and stop these infections from occurring.”

That strategy, first released in 2012, includes a toolkit with guidelines for prevention and treatment of CRE. Among the recommendations are the need for better antibiotic stewardship programs and the importance of adherence to infection control precautions.

In the report, CDC officials cautioned that providers are at a critical tipping point in the fight against CRE, whose incidences are still relatively rare but growing.

“We've seen in outbreak after outbreak that when facilities and regions follow CDC's prevention guidelines, CRE can be controlled and even stopped,” said Dr. Michael Bell, acting director of the CDC's Division of healthcare Quality Promotion.

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