DENVER (CBS4) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging action to stop a new nightmare bacteria from spreading in hospitals and nursing homes.

The germs are called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE). They can cause infections that in some cases are impossible to cure.

The bacteria are antibiotic resistant. They kill up to half of the patients who get severe infections from them. The CDC is calling for action to stop them now, and Colorado is already on the case.

Common germs in a person’s healthy digestive system have developed into superbugs.

“Bacteria that cause some of the most common mild infections such as urinary tract infections now have the capability of being rendered untreatable,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Connie Price with Denver Health said.

Price said they are spread among patients, and on the hands of health care workers.

The CDC reports in the first half of 2012 almost 200 U.S. health care facilities treated at least one CRE infected patient. Some couldn’t be cured with even last-resort antibiotics.

“If we can’t treat a common urinary tract infection, a common gut infection, then we have a big problem. We’ve essentially set ourselves back to the pre-antibiotic era,” Price said.

The CDC is calling for action to stop CRE infections, such as hand sanitizing, wearing gowns and gloves, and carefully cleaning hospital equipment. Colorado is doing even more. The state is one of six states that requires CRE be reported to the Department of Public Health and Environment.

“We have had one outbreak that we’re aware of so far,” Dr. Wendy Bamberg with the Colorado Department of Public Health said.

It was last August in University of Colorado Hospital. Bamberg says the outbreak was stopped.

“I do feel that Colorado is ahead of the game because we are detecting this bacteria, we’re tracking this bacteria,” Bamberg said.

The CDC is calling for a strategy of “detect and protect.” This is considered a critical time where CRE can be controlled with a coordinated and consistent effort.

Infections occur when people are the most vulnerable, such as people in intensive care and those receiving chemotherapy or organ transplants. Prevention measures are critical.


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