PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking health care centers to be on the lookout for bacteria resistant to a class of antibiotics.

The bacteria are called carbapenam-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.

Over the past 10 years, resistance has been rising. The problem has been notable in long-term care facilities.

“These patients have been on lots of antibiotics. They’ve been in the hospital for a long period of time, and they’ve had the opportunity to get organisms that are resistant,” says St. Clair Hospital infectious diseases specialist Dr. Stephen Colodny.

They develop resistance by acquiring bits of DNA from other bacteria that code for an enzyme to break down the antibiotic.

“Typically, it’s someone who’s had multiple medical problems, has multiple devices in place, and has had multiple infections. So, they’ve already received a lot of antibiotics,” explains Dr. Colodny.

A patient may have a fever that does not respond to the usual treatment.

“By the time we come up with an appropriate antibiotic, the patient may already be quite ill, or we may not have an appropriate antibiotic to give at all,” he laments.

The bacteria normally live in your intestine, but they can spread and cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, wound infections and meningitis.

It can be deadly, with 50 percent dying of bloodstream infection.

“The organism can live in water, it can live on surfaces, so it’s usually transmitted very innocently on people’s hands from one place to another,” says Dr. Colodny.

In Pennsylvania, hospital-acquired infections are reportable, but not specifically CRE.

The bacteria were first detected in North Carolina in 2001. Forty-two states have had a case.

Pennsylvania is one of them, based on regionally processed laboratory specimens.

During the first six months of 2012, nearly one in 20 acute care hospitals reported at least one patient infected with CRE. That’s up from a decade ago, when it was just one in 50.

“This is an organism we should be very concerned about, that we don’t want to see in our communities,” warns Dr. Colodny.

For more information, check out this article from USA Today.

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