Nightmare, drug-resistant superbugs, including one that kills half the people who get it, are a big threat

“Nightmare bacteria” leading to deadly infections that are difficult and sometimes impossible to treat are on the rise in American hospitals, and threaten to spread to otherwise healthy people outside of medical facilities, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control Vital Signs report published Tuesday.

These superbugs, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, have become resistant to nearly all the antibiotics available today, including drugs of last resort. According to the report, CRE infections are caused by a family of germs that are a normal part of a person’s healthy digestive system, but can cause infections when they get into the bladder, blood or other areas where they don’t belong.

The report says almost all CRE infections are found in patients receiving serious medical care, and they kill up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them. In addition to spreading among people, CREs easily spread their antibiotic resistance to other kinds of germs, making those potentially untreatable as well.

Only 10 years ago, such resistance was hardly ever seen in this group of germs. Although these superbugs are uncommon, their prevalence has quadrupled in the past decade in medical facilities in 42 states, the CDC says.

The report calls for immediate action to stop the spread of these deadly infection; it is a critical time for U.S. doctors, nurses lab staff, medical facility leaders, health departments, states, policymakers and patients to help fight the spread through coordinated and consistent efforts.

The report asks patients to do three things: Tell your doctor if you have been hospitalized in another facility or country, take antibiotics only as prescribed, and insist that everyone wash their hands before touching you. For more details, click here for the Vital Signs report.

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