But I guess there is a first time for everything:
Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control, warns “nightmare bacteria” with a “fatality rate as high as 50 percent” and a high resistance to antibiotics could soon become a public health crisis. A coordinated international effort to prevent that outcome is imperative.
He was referring to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, commonly referred to as CREs, which are normally found in human intestines. As discussed by this primer issued by the CDC, these bacteria have been known to spread outside the intestines and cause infections—something that usually happens in nursing homes intensive care units, and rehabilitation centers, and usually affects elderly patients and/or those with compromised immune systems. Many of these patients are receiving care that includes having their skin breached with IVs, ports and catheters, which help in the spread of CREs.
CRE infections can be life-threatening, and as indicated by their name, cannot be treated even with carbapenem, which is a class of antibiotics that is used only when other antibiotics have failed, and which must be administered in hospitals, oftentimes intravenously. Even worse, Frieden points out, there is a way for CREs to spread their resistance to antibiotics to other bacteria, which may mean that a host of infections once considered easily curable might require hospitalization and intensive treatments to avoid patient deaths.
Frieden and the CDC tell us that we have “a limited window of opportunity” to do something about CREs. While CREs are currently confined to hospital and other care settings in the United States, the worry is that they may spread to the general population. If that happens, we will be in trouble, as CREs can be very hard to detect. Additionally, as the Wired story I linked to in this paragraph points out, we have to worry not just about CREs, but also other carbapenem-resistant bacteria that are not Enterobacteriaceae. The story references this finding on carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, which over the past fourteen years has become eight times less susceptible to carbapenem treatments. These superbugs, along with CREs, can pose a severe risk to the general population.
Read it all … if you are feeling brave, that is.