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E. coli. (Image: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation)

CDC: Alarming Rise in Antibiotic-Resistant 'Nightmare Bacteria'

"Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections.”

There is an alarming rise in antibiotic resistant, deadly "nightmare bacteria," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Tuesday.

The warning regards carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a family of germs, the CDC explains, that "have become resistant to all or nearly all the antibiotics we have today."

“CRE are nightmare bacteria," CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, said in a statement.  "Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections.”

Enterobacteriaceae germs (E. coli is an example) normally exist in the gut, but can become resistant to carbapenems, known as "last resort antibiotics."  The germs may then travel to areas in the body they don't normally exist, often striking patients in hospitals and nursing homes on ventilators or catheters.

While infections from CRE germs are uncommon, they are particularly deadly, killing up to half of people who get severe infections from them. Their spreading capabilities are also a factor, as they can transfer their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria within their family. And these infections are on the rise, says the CDC, with the most common type of CRE infection increasing seven-fold over the last decade.

The infections in otherwise healthy people have been rare so far, but the CDC warns that the new data show that may change.

The CDC says the findings must be a call for urgent action on coordinated prevention efforts.

“Doctors, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC’s 'detect and protect' strategy and stop these infections from spreading,” said Frieden.

The CDC has this infographic on the rise of CRE infections:

Read the full report here.

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