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You’ve probably heard of superbugs. Superbugs are bacteria that have evolved a resistance to one or more antibiotics. One of the best-known super bugs is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA—which is also resistant to antibiotics in the penicillin and cephalosporin families—is very common in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings, but it can also be caught in the community.

MRSA isn’t the only superbug, nor is it the most dangerous. Currently, doctors and health officials are very concerned about the spread of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) in Iowa hospitals.

The Enterobacteriaceae are a family of bacteria that includes Klebsiella species and Escherichia coli (E. coli), two types of bacteria that are normally found in the human digestive tract. Other examples of Enterobacteriaceae include the disease-causing bacteria Salmonella, Yersinia (the bacteria that causes plague), and Shigella. Species of enterobacteria are leading causes of bacterial infections both in and out of Iowa hospitals.

Although Klebsiella sp. and E. coli are a normal part of our digestive flora, they can be very dangerous outside the gut. These bacteria can cause wound infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, blood stream infections, heart infections, and meningitis.

Enterobacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, overuse of antibiotics has caused some types of bacteria to mutate and develop resistance to the most commonly used medications.

CRE occurs when an enterobacteria becomes carbapenem-resistant. Carbapenems are broad-spectrum antibiotics that are the treatment of last resort for bacterial infections that have not responded to other drugs. CREs contain enzymes that break down carbapenems and make them ineffective.

CRE infections are very rare in healthy people. They are usually seen in patients in healthcare settings, including nursing homes and hospitals. CRE infections are spread through contact with infected or colonized people. Patients who use devices like ventilators, urinary catheters, and intravenous catheters are at high risk, as are patients taking long courses of certain antibiotics.

Because CRE bacteria are resistant to most available antibiotics, CRE infections are very difficult to treat. Fifty percent of patients with CRE infections die.

Currently, CRE infections have been confined to healthcare settings, such as hospital intensive care units and nursing homes. But health officials are concerned that CRE could spread to community settings and affect the general population.

CRE in Iowa hospitals can be prevented if hospitals carefully monitor patients, require proper hygiene from health professionals, and take steps to reduce the spread of bacteria.

Have you or a loved one suffered CRE while a patient in an Iowa hospital? Our Des Moines personal injury attorneys can help your family find justice. Contact Hupy and Abraham at 888-807-2752 to learn about medical negligence and Iowa medical malpractice claims.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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