CRE, which stands for Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, are a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics. CRE are an important emerging threat to public health.
In their usual forms, germs from the Enterobacteriaceae family (e.g. E. coli) are a normal part of the human digestive system. However, some of these germs have developed defenses to fight off all or almost all antibiotics we have today. When these germs get into the blood, bladder or other areas where germs don’t belong, patients suffer from infections that are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat.
Even though these infections are not common, their rise is alarming because they kill up to half of people who get severe infections from them. In addition to causing lethal infections among patients, CRE are especially good at giving their antibiotic-fighting abilities to other kinds of germs.This means that in the near future, more bacteria will become immune to treatment, and more patients’ lives could be at risk from routine bladder or wound infections.
To get a CRE infection, a person must be exposed to CRE germs. CRE germs are usually spread person to person through contact with wounds or stool. CRE can cause infections when they enter the body, often through medical devices like ventilators, intravenous catheters, urinary catheters, or wounds caused by injury or surgery.
Healthy people usually don’t get CRE infections. CRE primarily affect patients in acute and long-term healthcare settings, who are being treated for another condition. CRE are more likely to affect those patients who have compromised immune systems or have invasive devices like tubes going into their body. Use of certain types of antibiotics might also make it more likely for patients to get CRE.
What can patients do to prevent CRE infections?