Healthcare News & Insights

CRE infections rising: What hospital execs can do to stop them

Deadly antibiotic-resistant infections are on the rise in hospitals throughout the country, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking for vigilance from healthcare professionals at all levels to stop these outbreaks in their tracks.

The CDC recently released a report about these dangerous infections, which are caused by carbapenen-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), defined as germs that don’t respond well to antibiotics, even those given to patients as a last resort.

CRE are particularly dangerous because they can spread antibiotic resistance to other germs, including E. coli, causing them to become untreatable as well.

Although CRE germs are still fairly uncommon, according to the CDC, in the past 10 years, they’ve increased from 1% of existing bacteria to 4% – a striking jump.

In the first half of last year alone, 18% of long-term, acute-care hospitals in the country battled at least one CRE infection, as did 4% of short-stay hospitals. In all, 42 states reported that at least one patient tested positive for a CRE.

Patients who are most vulnerable to contracting CRE infections include those who are on ventilators or who have catheters. Patients taking certain antibiotics are also at risk.

Best practices to prevent CRE infections

Once contracted, CRE infections often prove fatal. In fact, they kill up to half of all patients who contract them. So it’s important to take all possible precautions to prevent patients from contracting these infections in the first place.

There are several measures healthcare executives can take to help stop the spread of CRE infections. The CDC suggests the following rules for healthcare execs to follow:

  • Require staff to stick to CDC guidelines regarding CRE tracking, detection, reporting and prevention.
  • Ensure your hospital’s lab is able to accurately identify the presence of CRE in a patient.
  • Have the lab quickly alert clinical staff if any CRE germs are present.
  • Be aware of any CRE infections reported in any neighboring healthcare facilities, and have an idea of CRE trends in your area.
  • If transferring a patient, require hospital staff to notify the facility of a CRE infection, or any infections in general. Encourage other facilities to do the same in return.
  • Promote smart antibiotic use. Don’t just give patients antibiotics because they ask for them. Tell providers to use culture results to modify prescriptions, if necessary.
  • Enforce proper infection prevention protocol, including the importance of regular hand washing.

More ways to reduce the chance of a CRE infection in your hospital are available in a toolkit from the CDC’s website.

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  1. It is really very scary just how many antibiotic resistant viruses and bacteria’s there are. Even though the number is only 4%, the 3% increase is alarming to me. I am wondering how this will continue to increase of the next few years and just how the CDC is going to respond.