Hospitals Plagued by Unbeatable 'Superbugs'

'USA Today' finds thousands of cases in recent years

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 29, 2012 11:11 AM CST

(Newser) – US hospitals are quietly fighting an incredibly high stakes war that they look unlikely to win against "superbugs" that resist even the most potent antibiotics available, a USA Today investigation has concluded. The paper has compiled evidence showing that hospitals across the country have seen thousands of infections from bacteria known as "Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae" or CRE, so named for its ability to resist even last-resort carbapenem antibiotics.

About 40% of patients infected with CRE die, making it "the most serious challenge we face to patient safety" amongst drug-resistant organisms, one CDC official says. But despite the agency's urgings, few states are tracking infections, and many lack the resources to even identify them. But every state that is tracking it has reported cases, and it already appears endemic in major population centers like New York, LA, and Chicago. What's worse, there's no drug on the horizon that might combat the disease. For the paper's full report, click here.

Some bacteria manages to resist hospitals' precautions and drugs.
Some bacteria manages to resist hospitals' precautions and drugs.   (Shutterstock)
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If you look at the current pipeline of antibiotics, none of them really is going to be active against these bacteria. ... I'm assuming this is going to get worse. - Gary Roselle, director of the Infectious Diseases Service for the Department of Veterans Affairs

We're still at a point where we can stop this thing. You can never eradicate CRE, but we can prevent the spread. ... It's a matter of summoning the will. - Arjun Srinivasan, the CDC's associate director for preventing health care-related infections

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