Maggie: They are calling it nightmare bacteria. This superbug is known as CRE, and experts are calling this group of bacteria a triple threat. It is resistant to nearly all antibiotics, can spread its resistance to other bacteria and it is deadly.
Dr. Arjun Srinivasan: We know that these infections are very lethal. Among the patients who get serious infections with these CRE bacteria – they get them in their bloodstream, for example – roughly half of those patients may die.
Maggie: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, is calling for urgent action, and says that hospitals have a limited window of opportunity to stop the spread of this superbug.
CRE has been found in 42 states, with 200 healthcare facilities reporting at least one patient infected with the bacteria. And CRE have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics over the past decade, meaning patients have fewer – and sometimes no –treatment options. That is why experts say the best way to save people from CRE is to prevent it from infecting them in the first place.
Dr. Srinivasan: It is careful attention to washing your hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wearing gowns and gloves when you are caring for these patients, cleaning equipment carefully.
Maggie: Experts also warn that excessive use of antibiotics may cause the bacteria to become stronger.
Doctors say CRE infections are still relatively uncommon and that they have been dealing with superbugs for years. But the CDC urges healthcare providers to take this threat seriously in order to prevent the situation from becoming a nightmare.
Shelby, back to you.
- Why is the fact that C.R.E. can spread its resistance to other bacteria such a serious problem?
- What do you know about how superbugs evolve?
- What are the best defensive actions a person can take to protect him- or herself from superbugs?