Drug-Resistant 'Nightmare' Bacteria Is Coming For You

The CDC has issued a warning to hospitals, and, to paraphrase: BE AFRAID. So-called "nightmare bacteria" — drug-resistant germs that are impossible to treat — are on the rise.

According to the CDC, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae — CRE, for short — are resistant to all, or nearly all antibiotics, "even our most powerful drugs of last-resort."

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, does not mince words:

CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections. Doctors, nurses, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC's "detect and protect" strategy and stop these infections from spreading.

Drug-Resistant 'Nightmare' Bacteria Is Coming For You

But wait, you say. This is a message for hospitals. True! As Wired reports, "CRE tends to attack in ICUs and other critical care, and also in rehab units and nursing homes."

That said, right now, CRE have been found in forty-two states. (Maine, you are a lucky duck.) CRE is transmitted from person-to-person, often on the hands of health care workers, and the superbug is "particularly good at surviving on the kind of surfaces - plastic, glass and metal - that you find in health care." And CRE will fucking murder you:

CRE have high mortality rates – CRE germs kill 1 in 2 patients who get bloodstream infections from them.

TERRIFYING. In a piece for CNN, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll points out:

The nightmare scenario, though, is that this bacteria will get out into the community.

This isn't fear-mongering. Years ago, Staphylococcus aureus infections were also relatively easy to treat. Over time, though, a strain of bacteria, known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, became a problem in hospitals. The CDC issued warnings to hospitals to take precautions to prevent its spread. Over time, though, it got out into the community.

Remember the MRSA epidemic? That shit was horrifying, and spawned the most disgusting stories ever. Shudder.

The CDC has a bunch of precautions health care facilities can take, but not of them are funded or required. Scary. And Wired's Maryn McKenna notes:

Despite writing about this for years, I still haven't figured out whether people think it will never happen to them, or whether they assume there will always be another drug to save them - both assumptions that are incorrect. But I've also written about the CDC for years, and I can't remember many times when they have made statements as strongly worded as yesterday's.

Nightmare bacteria: Coming for you. Stay inside.

‘We Have a Limited Window of Opportunity': CDC Warns of Resistance ‘Nightmare' [Wired]
Why 'nightmare bacteria' on the rise [CNN]
CDC: Deadly drug-resistant bacteria on rise in U.S. hospitals [CBS News]
New CDC Vital Signs: Lethal, Drug-resistant Bacteria Spreading in U.S. Healthcare Facilities [CDC]
Tracking CRE [CDC]

Images via CDC