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CDC officials warn of outbreak of rare ‘untreatable’ superbug

Seems as if the last two years have produced some of the most notorious viruses and bacteria the world has ever seen. Now there is a call from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be on the lookout for another “superbug” — carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriacea (CRE), 15 types of which have been seen in the U.S over the past 12 months.

The bacteria was responsible for at least seven deaths in an outbreak at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center last year after a patient came to the hospital for a lung transplant while infected. It arises from a type of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics and can linger in the body for more than a year. The bacteria can cause pneumonia, intestinal and urinary tract infections, and bloodstream infections. According to scientists, the problem is that it’s impossible, based on present treatment protocols and options, to eradicate the bacteria.

The concern is that drug-resistant CRE’s may live in the intestines and lungs and may cause pneumonia, meningitis and other diseases.

The first known U.S. case was detected at a North Carolina hospital in 2001, and since the bacteria have been detected in at least 41 other states. The University of Virginia Medical Center was hit four years ago and to date, many cases go unrecognized until it’s too late for the patient.

The bacteria are resistant to most antibiotics and they typically live in the soil or water. Infected Individuals are usually asymptomatic, but can develop other infections to vital organs and the infections are associated with mortality rates of 40 to 50 percent.

There is no reliable national data on the scope of the CRE problem and there is no known effective drug to kill CRE bacteria. The CDC is warning is mainly due to the fact that many hospitals, clinics and  nursing homes do not have the resources to effectively screen or  isolate patients carrying the bacteria. Thus the most problematic possibility is that CRE could make its way beyond health facilities and into the general community.