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Are Nightmare Bacteria Coming to a Hospital Near You?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our CAFO's vs. Free Range page.

Infections associated with antibiotic resistant "super germs" are increasing in hospitals across the United States. First it was MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), once rare but now far too commonplace in medical settings.

Although mortality rates have decreased, MRSA is believed to kill 18,650 people each year in the US, which is more than are killed by AIDS.1 But recently, concerns have shifted to even more dangerous bacteria called CRE.

When bacteria such as Klebsiella produce the enzyme carbapenemase (referred to as KPC-producing organisms), the class of antibiotics called carbapenems will not kill them, giving rise to the name carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. CRE has been dubbed a "nightmare bacteria" by the CDC's Director Tom Frieden because of their extreme resilience-it's nearly impossible to kill them.

These super germs pose a triple-threat that makes them nearly impossible to kill with conventional antibiotics:

 • CRE are resistant to virtually all antibiotics, including the ones doctors use as a last-ditch effort to treat an infection 

• The organisms can transfer their virility to other bacteria, making containment much more of a challenge. 

• CRE bacterial infections are quite deadly, with a fatality rate as high as 50 percent.

According to a CDC Fact Sheet:

•  About four percent of US hospitals had at least one patient with CRE infections during the first half of 2012, and about 18 percent of long-term care hospitals had at least one case of CRE 

• CRE germs have increased from one to four percent over the past decade, and one type has increased from two to 10 percent 

• These nightmare bacteria have now been confirmed in medical facilities in 42 states over the past ten years

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