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Super bug hits Chicago hospital

In a Jan. 6 report, UPI states that a 2013 outbreak of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections at a Chicago hospital has been linked to equipment used in endoscopic procedures. Advocate Lutheran General Hospital was the site of an outbreak of illnesses caused by carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) in the first nine months last year. A total of 38 patients became ill after undergoing an endoscopic inspection of the pancreas.

Lotti Ochsendorf picks up her free prescription of antibiotics from Rosemary Petty a Publix Supermarket pharmacy technician
Lotti Ochsendorf picks up her free prescription of antibiotics from Rosemary Petty a Publix Supermarket pharmacy technicianPhoto by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describe carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae as "a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics." The Chicago outbreak is detailed in the Jan. 3, 2013, issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It is the largest cluster of such infections since CRE bacteria were discovered in 2009.

The hospital followed standard, automated cleaning procedures for its endoscopic equipment at the time the illnesses happened. CDC investigators were able to culture CRE from equipment after routine cleaning. Advocate Lutheran has changed its cleaning process to one used for surgical instruments and no additional CRE infections have been found.

The CDC calls CRE a “nightmare bacteria.” In 2013, infections were recorded in 46 states. The bacteria are resistant to most or all of the antibiotics in use, including the carbapenems. These bacteria also show the ability to share genetic material with unrelated bacterial species. This trait is creating more and more antibiotic resistant bacterial species.

The CDC points out that healthy people do not usually catch a CRE infection.

CRE primarily affect patients in acute and long-term healthcare settings, who are being treated for another condition. CRE are more likely to affect those patients who have compromised immune systems or have invasive devices like tubes going into their body. Use of certain types of antibiotics might also make it more likely for patients to get CRE.

Increasing number of infections by bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics will continue for the foreseeable future. Development of new antibiotics and the proper use of existing antibiotics may make a difference. Until then, physicians remain extremely concerned about these "super bugs.'