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CRE, or Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, is the "nightmare bacteria" or super-bug which seems to be popping up in hospitals across the country and scientists, physicians and patients are all wondering—how could this happen? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Thomas Frieden officially alerted the medical community that the super-bug appears to be spreading and cautioned doctors, hospital administrators and health officials to work urgently to halt the spread of infection.

The bacteria are "increasingly resistant" to most antibiotics and morbidity in patients who have bloodstream infections is 50 percent. These bacteria are able to transfer their resistance to antibiotics to other bacteria—which may make other bacteria resistant to antibiotics as well.

An outbreak at the National Institutes of Health, two years ago, was attributed to Carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella, that made 19 people ill and 12 patients died. According to Frieden, the super bug "can spread the genes that destroy our last antibiotics to other bacteria, such as E. coli" making E. coli, the bacteria that causes most urinary tract infections, resistant to antibiotics. (Washington Post, 3/5/13) During the first six months of 2012, 200 hospitals and long-term care facilities had treated at least one person infected by the bacteria. "Almost all CRE infections occur in patients receiving care for serious conditions in hospitals, long-term acute-care facilities… or nursing homes." (Washington Post, 3/5/13)

The super-bug germs can spread from person to person, so patients should not be shy about asking health care professionals to wash their hands before treating or touching them. Frieden also noted that patients should "not always demand antibiotics for their illnesses." (Washington Post, 3/5/13)

This is truly a scary bacteria, reminiscent of some movies that have come out in the past 10-15 years. Antibiotics are overused in the U.S., and many doctors are attempting to avoid over-prescribing them today, with the hope that resistance to antibiotics tide will be stemmed somewhat.

If any physicians read this, I would be interested to know your thoughts on what the average person can do to help fight this battle.

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