This photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows one form of CRE bacteria, sometimes called "nightmare bacteria."
Deadly, nearly untreatable superbugs known as CRE, dubbed "nightmare bacteria," have spread at an alarming rate throughout the southeastern region of the US in recent years, new research indicates.
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found cases of antibiotic-resistant CRE - or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae - increased by at least a factor of five in community hospitals across the region from 2008 to 2012.
"We're trying to sound the alarm. This is a problem for all of us in health care,"
said Deverick J. Anderson, lead author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Duke, according to USA Today
. "These (bacteria) are just about as bad as it gets."
CRE are a family of bacteria that live in one's guts, often without causing illness. Yet when the bacteria escape - during ICU treatment, for example - they often cause major hospital-induced infections. One in 25 hospitalized patients contract at least one health-care-related infection on any given day, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The bacteria prey mostly on vulnerable, hospitalized patients, killing nearly half of those who catch bloodstream infections.
according to Wired
, are a group of potent antibiotics that target infections that have proven resistant to other antibiotics. They are considered drugs to be used as a last resort. And since only a few antibiotics - riddled with side effects and other problems for a patient - have been proven successful against CREs, the bacteria family's strong emergence indicates the dawn of a post-antibiotic era.
That is, unless overuse of antibiotics is curbed and infection control at hospitals and long-term care facilities is improved, experts say. Many in the health community see the rise of superbugs as fueled by the impulse to use antibiotics, both with and without a patient's urging, for common ailments like a sore throat.
"That needs to stop,"
said Kevin Kavanagh, an infection-control activist who heads the watchdog group Health Watch USA. "It's creating a huge problem."