CRE, which stands for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, are strains of bacteria that are resistant to carbapenem, a class of antibiotic used to treat severe infections, as well as most other antibiotics commonly used today. In some cases, CRE are resistant to all available antibiotics.
Often called "superbugs," antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause infections of the lungs (pneumonia), urinary tract and skin. CRE superbugs have the ability to spread and share their antibiotic-resistant qualities with healthy bacteria in your body. These germs have the potential to cause infections if they get into the bladder, blood or other areas where they don't belong. When an infection happens, it is difficult, if not impossible, to treat effectively.
Who's at risk?
CRE-related infections are associated with high mortality rates and are often responsible for outbreaks in health care settings. People whose care requires devices such as breathing machines (ventilators) or catheters and long courses of certain antibiotics are most at risk of CRE infections.
Preventing the spread of CRE and other antibiotic-resistant infections begins with practicing good hand-washing using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Establishing healthy lifestyle habits such as eating a proper diet, getting enough exercise and maintaining good sleep patterns also can reduce the risk of illness.
It's also important to avoid overusing and misusing antibiotics, such as taking antibiotics when they're not the appropriate treatment. Antibiotics are designed to work against infections caused by bacteria, fungi and certain parasites — not infections caused by viruses. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, take the medicine only as directed and be sure to complete the full treatment course, even if you feel better after a couple of days.
Health care facilities also are encouraged to:
- Follow proper contact precautions when putting on and removing gowns and gloves
- Minimize the use of invasive devices such as urinary catheters
- Have in place appropriate infection control precautions when CRE are identified
- Use antibiotics appropriately