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'Nightmare' Bacteria Spreading in U.S. Hospitals, Nursing Homes: CDC

f CRE, a resistant form of Klebsiella pneumoniae, has increased sevenfold in the past decade, according to the CDC's March 5 Vital Signs report.

"To see bacteria that are resistant is worrisome, because this group of bacteria are very common," said Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Most CRE infections to date have been in patients who had prolonged stays in hospitals, long-term facilities and nursing homes, the report said.

The bacteria kill up to half the patients whose bloodstream gets infected and are easily spread from patient to patient on the hands of health-care workers, the CDC said.

Moreover, CRE bacteria can transfer their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria of the same type.

This problem is the result of the overuse of antibiotics, Siegel said. "The more you use an antibiotic, the more resistance is going to emerge," he said. "This is an indictment of the overuse of this class of antibiotic."

What's needed are new antibiotics, Siegel said, adding that pharmaceutical companies lack the financial motivation to develop them right now. "Eventually, there will be enough resistance so drug companies will have a financial incentive. In the meantime, lives can be lost," he said.

Added Dr. Ghinwa Dumyati, associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester in New York: "At this time, our best prevention is detection and infection control. The incidence [of CRE] is low and we are looking to prevent it before it gets much higher and we cannot control it."

To beat back the spread of these bacteria, the CDC wants hospitals and other health-care facilities to take the following steps:

  • Enforce infection-control precautions.
  • Group together patients with CRE.
  • Segregate staff, rooms and equipment to patients with CRE.
  • Tell facilities when patients with CRE are transferred.
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