During the first half of 2012, almost 200 hospitals and long-term acute-care facilities treated at least one patient infected with these bacteria. The CDC did not have statistics for fatalities.
Enterobacteriaceae are a family of more than 70 bacteria, including E. coli, that normally live in the digestive system. Over time, some of these bacteria have become resistant to a group of antibiotics known as carbapenems, often referred to as last-resort antibiotics. During the past decade, CDC tracked one type of CRE from a single health-care facility to facilities in at least 42 states, according to a CDC news release.
Only six states — Tennessee, Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin, Oregon and North Dakota — require hospitals and health-care facilities to report CRE infections to state health departments.
The NIH outbreak sickened 19 patients, including the woman who brought the germ with her when she was transferred to the Bethesda facility; 12 patients died. Seven of the deaths were directly attributed to an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae.
When the outbreak erupted, the clinical center’s infection control staff scrambled, walling off infected patients and tearing out plumbing. They swabbed equipment, walls, railings and patients to track and contain the bacterium. Despite these extreme efforts, the outbreak still ticked along for more than a year as the hardy superbug lingered on hard surfaces — and inside patients, among the sickest of the sick.
The seven patients who died of bloodstream Klebsiella infections had immune systems weakened by cancer, anti-rejection drugs given after organ transplants, and genetic disorders.
Almost all CRE infections occur in patients receiving care for serious conditions in hospitals, long-term acute-care facilities (such as those providing wound care or ventilation) or nursing homes.
These patients often have catheters or ventilators, which can allow bacteria “to get deeply into a patient’s body,” Frieden said.