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Nature Examines ‘Little-Known’ Class Of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Nature reports on “a little-known class of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CREs),” noting Sally Davies, the United Kingdom’s chief medical officer, “described CREs as a risk as serious as terrorism,” and CDC Director Thomas Frieden has called for an alarm to be sounded over the issue. According to the magazine, CREs — which “cause bladder, lung and blood infections that can spiral into life-threatening septic shock” — “evade the action of almost all antibiotics — including the carbapenems, which are considered drugs of last resort — and they kill up to half of all patients who contract them.” Nature writes, “Looking back, say observers, there are lessons for researchers and health care workers in how to protect patients, as well as those hospitals where CREs have not yet emerged.”

Nature examines the history of CREs, noting they “were first identified almost 15 years ago, but did not become a public health priority until recently, and medics may not have appreciated the threat that they posed.” The magazine details the spread of CREs, writing, “Researchers have spotted other carbapenem-resistance factors moving around the globe; one has already appeared in the United States, and others are clustered in southern Europe and South America.” The magazine states, “It seems unlikely that new drugs will become available soon,” adding, “That means, say infectious disease experts, that their best tools for defending patients remain those that depend on the performance of health personnel: handwashing, the use of gloves and gowns, and aggressive environmental cleaning” (McKenna, 7/24).