Deadly, drug-resistant bacteria are becoming more common in Kentucky hospitals; key lawmaker wants to require public reporting

Nightmarish, drug-resistant bacteria that cause deadly infections are becoming more common in Kentucky hospitals, and a leading legislator on health issues says they should be required to report each case.

The state Department for Public Health and hospital officials are investigating the presence of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, at Kindred Hospital Louisville, right, a long-term and transitional care facility.

“Since July, we have identified about 40 patients in whom we have cultured the organisms from one or more body fluids,” Dr. Sean Muldoon, chief medical officer for Kindred, told Laura Ungar of The Courier-Journal.

These superbugs kill about half of the patients who get infected. They have become resistant to nearly all the antibiotics available today, including drugs of last resort. 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, says the federal Centers for Disease Control. The presence of CRE in bodily fluids doesn’t mean someone is infected by the bacteria, because the patient could also be “colonized” by the bacteria without developing an infection, said Muldoon. CRE may be present in a patient before he or she is admitted to the hospital, or it can be transmitted from patient to patient at the hospital, Ungar notes.

Officials at several Louisville-area hospitals told The Courier-Journal last month that they have seen a growing number of CRE cases in recent years, reports Ungar. The CDC issued a warning report about the bacteria last month, but there has only been one “outbreak” of CRE listed for Kentucky. (Read more)

Given the threat of this bacteria, the CDC has called for quick action to stop these deadly infections, and the chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee wants to tighten up CRE reporting requirements.

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, sent a letter to Gov. Steve Beshear proposing a new regulation that would mandate immediate reporting of CRE infection or colonization to the state. Burch said he plans to introduce a bill that would require such reporting by health-care facilities, and he is working with Dr. Kevin Kavanagh of the Somerset, Ky.-based watchdog group Health Watch USA, reports Ungar.

“If it gets in the community and spreads, we’re in trouble,” Kavanagh told Ungar. Burch emphasized this level of risk in his letter to the governor, saying that health-department involvement is crucial to preventing this deadly bacteria from “developing a foothold in Kentucky.”

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