Hospitals need to take action against the spread of a deadly, antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria kill up to half of patients who are infected.
The bacteria, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE, have increased over the past decade and grown resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics, according to the CDC. In the first half of 2012, 200 health care facilities treated patients infected with CRE.
"CRE are nightmare bacteria," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement. "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 spreading."
That strategy includes making sure proper hand hygiene policies in health care facilities are actually followed.
Patients should also be screened for CREs, according to the CDC. Infected patients should be isolated, or grouped together to limit exposures.
The good news is that not only is CRE seen relatively infrequently in most U.S. facilities, but current surveillance systems haven't been able to find it commonly in otherwise healthy people in the community, says Dr. Alex Kallen, a CDC medical officer.
"Of course, if this were to (spread to the community), it would make it much more difficult to control," he said.
Each year, hospital-acquired infections sicken about 1.7 million and kill 99,000 people in the United States. While up to 50 percent of patients with CRE bloodstream infections die, similar antibiotic-susceptible bacteria kill about 20 percent of bloodstream-infected patients.