Hospitals in the U.S. are seeing an increase in hard-to-treat infections from a rare, but deadly superbug, according to a report released Tuesday by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which analyzed data from about 3,900 U.S. hospitals in the first six months of 2012.
The data shows about four percent of acute-care hospitals, and 18 percent of long-term acute care hospitals in America, reported at least one case of dangerous CRE bacteria, or Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, which are germs that are resistant to most last-resort antibiotics.
“The message that we’re trying to send is there’s an opportunity here,” said the CDC’s Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for healthcare-associated prevention programs. “It’s an uncommon issue, but it’s concerning. There’s an opportunity to act while it’s still uncommon.”
Although data shows that CRE infections are rare, analysis from three different data pools revealed a significant rise in the infections over the last decade of about 250 percent – climbing from 1.2 percent in 2001 to 4.2 percent in 2011.
CRE infections increased most for Klebsiella pneumoniae, which rose 550 percent between 2001 and 2011, and made headlines last summer after reports that the bug swept through the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center near Washington, D.C. – killing seven people, including a 16-year-old boy.
The CDC reports that CRE infections linked to Klebsiella have been detected in 42 states in the U.S. states, as well as in Puerto Rico. The biggest concern about these infections are that they spread rapidly through a hospital and can have a mortality rate of up to 50 percent.
The CDC says health care providers should be alert for evidence of CRE in their facilities, and act promptly to detect and contain the bug. Patients exposed to the bug should be kept together and away from others.