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Nurses who have long expressed concern regarding antibiotic overuse have been proven to be correct. Hopefully, by the time this article is published, the nightmare bacteria, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), will be under control. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expressing serious concern. The bacteria are increasingly resistant to antibiotic regimens and are emerging as a national threat to hospitals and nursing homes.


In an article published March 5, 2013, Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, noted, "It's not often our scientists come to me and say we have a very serious problem, and we need to sound the alarm. But that's exactly what we are doing today. Our strongest antibiotics don't work, and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections."


The CRE bacteria are described as a "triple threat." They are resistant to almost all of our existing antibiotics. Half the people who develop CRE infections in their bloodstreams die of the infections. The bacteria also can spread their antibiotic resistance to other similar bacteria. During the first half of 2012, the CDC reported that at least 200 hospitals and long-term-care facilities had at least 1 patient with the bacteria. As of March of this year, only Tennessee, Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin, Oregon, and North Dakota required that these infections be reported.


The CRE comprises a family of more than 70 bacteria, including familiar bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella. The CRE bacteria spread readily from person to person, often on the hands of healthcare providers. CDC representatives emphasize that proper precautions and better practices, including hand washing, can help control the spread of these bacteria. Standard infection control precautions, along with dedicating specific staff, rooms, and equipment for the care of patients with CRE, is recommended. Additionally, practitioners are cautioned to be judicious with antibiotic prescriptions and avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics.


Source: Sun L. CDC says "nightmare bacteria" a growing threat. March 5, 2013. The Washington Post. Health and Science. Available at Accessed March 14, 2013.


Submitted by: Robin E. Pattillo, PhD, RN, CNL, News Editor