Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are currently found only in hospitals and nursing homes but their prevalence is on the rise and there is concern among the health care community that their resistance could spread to other bacteria. CRE bacteria contribute to death in nearly 50% of patients who become infected and are resistant to almost all available antibiotics. Furthermore, the antibiotics to which they are not resistant are quite toxic to humans as well.
CRE will be able to pass along the resistance genes that it carries through conjugation; a common bacterial process that allows bacteria to transfer genetic material to other bacteria through cell to cell contact. If this happens common conditions which affect a larger portion of the population could become untreatable.
The CDC is enacting procedures at hospitals and long term care facilities around the country to contain the spread of CRE. But what can you do? First take antibiotics only when prescribed and request antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.
If you are a patient in a hospital or long-term care facility the CDC suggests that you:
1) Tell your doctors if you have been hospitalized elsewhere
2) Clean your hands often
3) Expect health care providers to do the same and to clean their hands before and after touching you or the tubes going into your body
4) Ask anyone who visits you to clean their hands before and after their visit
5) Understand what is being done to you. Ask questions!